MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday assured soldiers that he would give them “the best of everything” under his term.
Duterte said he pitied soldiers wounded in battle, especially those who lost arms and limbs, as he expressed commitment to provide them with prosthetics so that they would be able to resume performing their daily activities.
“You will have the best of everything sa panahon ko (during my term),” he said during the change of command ceremony of outgoing PSG commander, Brig. Gen. Jose Niembra at the Presidential Security Group (PSG) Compound in Malacañang Park.
Recalling how he set aside millions of pesos for their state-of-the-art hospitals, Duterte said he did not want to see or hear reports about the government’s failure to treat injured soldiers.
Duterte, meanwhile, said he did not seek for “personal loyalty” since he found it “corny.” However, he sought for their continued devotion to the country.
“All that I ask is that when the time comes, I will be proudly saluting you and please remain loyal only to the flag of the Republic of the Philippines and no one else,” he said.
To give Filipinos a sense of security and pride, Duterte renewed his call to both soldiers and police officers to conduct daily silent drills.
“I want the people to see soldiers and policemen during the drill every day,” he said, stressing how he wanted to replicate the conduct of daily drills carried out by China.
Unclear whether he was being serious or not, Duterte said he would raise the prize for the next silent drill competition from PHP1 to 3 million.
“Gawin ninyo ‘yan (Do that) and the December finals would be PHP1 million. Baka dagdagan ko pa ng (I might even add) PHP2 million. Dagdagan ko pa ng (I’ll add) PHP3 million,” he said.
In December 20 last year, the first-ever presidential silent drill competition was held at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila to boost support for Duterte’s bid to revive the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.
Duterte has repeatedly called for the revival of the mandatory ROTC program in public and private senior high schools nationwide, in a bid to promote “gallantry, bravery, and spirit of volunteerism” among the Filipino youth.
The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) was crowned the champion and received a top prize of PHP300,000. The Philippine National Police Academy won second place and received PHP200,000, and the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy won third place and got PHP100,000.
New PSG chief
Duterte congratulated new Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander, Army Col. Jesus Durante as he expressed hope that he would provide “excellent” security to the Office of the President, his family, visiting heads of states, and diplomats.
“I thank you for stepping up to the challenge of being the next of PSG (Commander),” he said. “I look forward to working with you in the coming months.”
Duterte, meanwhile, thanked Niembra for his successful tour of duty.
He also expressed gratitude to all PSG troopers for their “valiant efforts” in the performance of their duties.
“Each and every one of you has truly shown undaunted courage and unbridled patriotism by choosing to be of service to our beloved country,” he said.
He encouraged them to be united in safeguarding the country’s institutions.
In a separate speech, Durante acknowledged that there are “a lot of challenges ahead” as they faced Duterte’s remaining two years in office.
He, however, said he expected all PSG troopers under his watch to “leave no room for mistakes.”
“Always bear in mind that the security gadgetry we possess will only be as effective as the people that use them. Leave critics behind. It is not the critic that counts but to use PSG troopers who risk our lives in the frontline,” he said.
Prior to being PSG commander, Durante headed the presidential escorts.
He is also a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1992. (PNA)