President Rodrigo Duterte’s address at the 81st anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday hit all the right notes, and was squarely on target from start to finish.
It validates what this paper has long advocated – that Mr. Duterte should speak more often from a prepared text, and rely less on his instincts and gifts for extemporaneous speech.
The strategy is especially appropriate for important public events and occasions – such as the anniversary of our armed forces.
The commander-in-chief matched the moment on Wednesday, when he delivered to all 125,000 of our men and women in the AFP his central message — “Respect human rights and the rule of law.”
This is a most reassuring message to our national soldiery and the people, because it comes at a time, when many in this country and in the world, wonder today (because of his past utterances) whether the President exercises such respect.
Now, and as he reviewed the troops and the colors this week, the President is under fire for his ongoing war on drugs that has taken already the lives of over 6,000 people.
President Duterte told the troops to respect human rights and the rule of law in all their operations.
While he insisted on this occasion that there will be no stopping the war on drugs, he fittingly did not call on our soldiery to help our national police in waging this war.
He called the AFP the “bedrock of our democratic ideals,” as the institution mandated to protect the people and the state.
He said: “As you observe this momentous occasion, may you all be reminded of your pivotal role in ensuring and sustaining the operational readiness of your units while being prudent so that your actions would strictly adhere to international humanitarian law, human rights and the rule of law.”
To this he added the exhortation: “I ask you to embolden yourselves to epitomize the AFP’s core values of honor, service and patriotism.”
To enable the military to perform its indispensable role in national life, the president promised to boost the morale of the troops and to support the AFP’s modernization program.
He said: “We shall continue to upgrade our capabilities through the AFP Modernization Program, focus on maintaining the high state of morale of our [military]men and women by delivering health and wellness services to our personnel, particular those who are deployed in the field, by enhancing the capabilities of tertiary and secondary hospitals and facilities….
“We shall rationalize the way we manage our facilities by crafting a master development plan for all AFP camps and bases as a basis for future development.”
He cited the gains of security plan Bayanihan, which sought to curb armed rebellion through a combination of military operations and development programs.
The President stressed that his administration is firmly committed to seek a lasting solution to armed conflict.
“We will conduct focused military operations against the Abu Sayyaf and other local and foreign terrorist groups and continue to strive to restore civil order in conflict-ridden areas.”
On the whole, the President’s message on AFP Day was coherent and reassuring amidst the conflicts and contentions in national life today.
And it is salutary for this holiday season when our people will mark together and join other peoples and nations in celebrating Christmas—and renewing our commitment to abide by its message of joy and peace through self-giving.