PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is determined to win the war against insurgents and vowed to build a “very strong” military by adding 40,000 more troops and rearming them to avert “future threats” to national security.
Speaking to reporters after he delivered his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, the President pledged that security forces would be “very strong” in two years’ time, with equipment that would boost their firepower.
“We must have a strong Republic to withstand all threats and challenges. Today’s reality demands, necessitates an Armed Forces that is strong,” Duterte said during the news conference.
“I will build a credible Armed Forces that can fight at all fronts everywhere. I really do not know how many will sprout up but we have the ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] and the NPA [New People’s Army]…You can expect after two years a very strong armed forces. I will buy equipment,” he added.
The President said there was a need to “reconfigure” the police and armed forces, citing the number of casualties on the government side in the fight against insurgency.
“I’ll be frank, there’s a need for the police and armed forces to reconfigure,” Duterte said.
“I would need about 35,000 to 40,000 to meet the future threats coming our way from within and outside the country and I will start also to re-arm,” he added.
Duterte issued the statement as he warned that the communist rebels would be the government troops’ next target as soon as the armed conflict in Marawi City ends.
“No more talks. So from now on, do not question me about the Reds. If they want war, you just wait until Marawi. We can better deal with you,” he said.
Duterte called off peace negotiations with communists last week following the series of attacks launched by the NPA against government troops.
300 hostages in Marawi
The government has also lost a number of soldiers fighting the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute terror group in Marawi City.
Maute fighters laid siege to the city in a bid to establish Marawi City as an enclave for the IS in Southeast Asia.
This prompted Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law, which was extended by Congress until the end of December this year upon the President’s request.
Duterte reiterated the military offensives would continue until the last terrorist was “taken out.”
The death toll in Marawi has risen to 571, as of July 20: 427 terrorists, 99 government troops, and 45 civilians.
Duterte said that the number of individuals being held hostage by the extremist group in Marawi City, pegged at 300, was delaying the objective of the security forces to retake the besieged city.
“The hostages, whether they are really Moro or Kristiyano [Christian], I do not want these innocents to be slaughtered. So hintay lang tayo [Let’s wait]. [Be] patient, because we do not want the innocents slaughtered,” he added.
Duterte also said there was no compelling reason for him to declare martial law in the entire country.
“What’s the reason for doing it?” the President said. “No nationwide martial law. And because why? I will look stupid before the eyes of the public if I do that. And I am not ready to be called stupid.”
“On martial law, there will be no human rights abuses, except rape… There can never be a violation of the martial law because the killing itself is a violation of human rights,” he said.