MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino on Thursday challenged security forces to ensure peaceful and clean polls in the upcoming elections.
Speaking at the change of command ceremony for the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Camp Aguinaldo, Aquino said, “Ang hamon ko po sa inyo: ang AFP, kasama ng ating kapulisan, ang may obligasyon na siguruhing maidaraos nang mapayapa at may integridad ang darating na halalan.”
“Nais nating mangibabaw ang boses ng bayan, at hindi ito mabusalan ng armas, takot, at karahasan. Saligang Batas ang dapat ninyong kilingan; taumbayan ang dapat ninyong panigan. Pangalagaan ninyo ang karapatan ng mamamayan na malayang makapili ng kanilang mga pinuno. Ang gusto natin: tapat, patas, at naaayon sa batas ang darating na eleksyon mula sa kampanya hanggang sa proklamasyon ng mga bagong pinuno,” the President added in his speech.
In response, newly installed AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista vowed that the military will remain non-partisan in the May elections.
“Your AFP shall remain non-partisan in the upcoming May elections. You can count on us to assist in ensuring honest, credible, orderly and peaceful elections,” he said.
Praises for Dellosa
Aquino thanked the newly retired General Jessie Dellosa for his service to the nation.
He was all praises to the retired general, whom he claimed he had known for about two-thirds of Dellosa’s career, and even cited one story about the military officer when he was young.
“Alam po ninyo, may narinig nga po akong kuwento noong kami ay mas bata pa: isa sa mga alamat (kaya baka ho magkaroon ng sine si General Jessie) na bumabalot kay General Jessie ay, noong siya’y isang batang Scout Ranger pa lang, nang may isang puno pong tinamaan ng bala ng M203, sumabog ang granada: sinabugan po ang kanyang mukha. Imbis na mabalisa at mataranta, ay talaga naman raw hong huwaran ng kakalmahan ng pagtatanggal niya ng shrapnel sa kanyang mukha. Ni hindi raw ho umaaray,” he said.
Aquino said that even Dellosa is almost 56 years old, the general remained “pleasing” (matikas) than most guys their age.
“Sa mga tournament po namin sa shooting, hihingal-hingal pa lang po akong padating sa takbuhan, si Jessie, pumuputok na. Nakakapanghinayang lang po’t sumapit na ang araw ng kanyang pagreretiro. Sana naman Jesse, higit two-thirds yata o mas mataas sa two-thirds ng inyong serbisyo ay nagkakilala na tayo,” he said.
The President also expressed his confidence toward the newly appointed Bautista, who was previously the Army chief prior to the top military post.
“Sa pamumuno niya, tiwala akong mananatiling nakatutok ang kasundaluhan sa kapakanan ng mamamayan at sa pagkamit ng tunay na kapayapaan….Kompiyansa ako sa iyong dedikasyon at katatagang pangunahan ang ating mga kawal sa tuwid na daan,” he said.
In a supposed sentimental and nostalgic retirement speech by the retiring Dellosa, his greeting remarks elicited controlled laughter from the crowd as he addressed Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa as Paquito Diaz.
The latter was a known veteran action star and comedian during 1950s to early 2000.
Dellosa recalled his 38-year military career by comparing the service when he was newly commissioned and as how he is leaving it, saying “any military officer on the brink of retirement can only find contentment when he is convinced that he will leave the service better than when he first entered it.”
He said that the AFP at present was making “tangible progress in the peace negotiations with the different internal threats.”
The general added that the military was now shifting from internally focused state of mind “as the AFP prepares to transition to its traditional mandate for external defense.”
New AFP chief Bautista, son of a slain general in the late 1970s, became sentimental as he dedicated his new post to his father.
“I dedicate this final chapter in my military service to my father, the bedrock from where I stand here before you today—he was and will always be my inspiration and role model as a soldier for peace,” he said in his assumption speech.
He said that under his leadership, the military would pursue “fulfilment of constitutional mandate and the pursuit of Security Sector Reform (SSR) initiatives.”
The SSR will focus on capability development and professionalization, citing that the most important asset of the AFP is its people.
“We shall give priority to developing a professional, strong and fully mission-capable joint force. We will develop our mission—essential capabilities in internal security, territorial defense, and disaster rescue and relief operations, as well as build up a robust and reliable reserve force,” he said.
Likewise, Bautista said that the AFP will continue strengthening bilateral and multilateral engagements with neighbors and allies to contribute to “international peace and stability.”
“We will endeavor to send more UN peacekeeping forces and develop capabilities to assist other nations in responding to natural calamities, just as our friends and allies have come to our aid in times of disaster,” he said.
Under his leadership, the new military chief also promised to take part in proactive measures such as environmental protection “to mitigate adverse effects of disasters.”