MANILA - President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday praised the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for their participation in the arrest of a former military officer accused of kidnapping, torture and murder.
The President said the arrest of Jovito Palparan, a former commander of the AFP Northern Luzon Command with the rank of Major General, shows that Filipino soldiers should not be feared.
Palparan was dubbed "The Butcher" by activist groups due to his alleged bloody campaign against the communist insurgency.
"Noong Martes nga ng umaga, nahuli na ang isa sa mga most wanted sa Pilipinas, at ngayon ay dadaan na sa tama at makatarungang proseso, para tumugon sa mga alegasyon ng pang-aabuso laban sa kanya. Masasabi na rin po natin ngayon: Kung dati, kinakatakutan ang inyong hanay bilang mga berdugo, ngayon, ginagalang at pinagkakatiwalaan kayo bilang mga tunay na kabalikat ng sambayanang Pilipino," Aquino said during his speech at the ceremonial distribution of firearms for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps held Thursday morning at the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
In his speech, the President said 27,300 pieces of M4 5.56mm rifles were delivered to the country last July.
The remaining 23,329 rifles are expected to arrive in the country by December of this year.
"Unang kalabit pa lang din ito sa malawakan nating inisyatiba para bigyang-lakas ang ating unipormadong hanay; doble-kayod pa rin tayo upang tuloy-tuloy ang inyong pag-unlad," he said.
According to the President, the Bids and Awards Committee reported that the rifles were supposedly priced at P63,000 per piece but the government was able to acquire the arms at the lower price of P38,402.13 per piece.
From the P3.19 billion budget, government spent P1.94 billion, resulting in P1.2 billion worth of savings.
"Gamit ang bahagi ng dagdag-pondo na ito, nakapag-procure ang ating Department of National Defense ng dagdag pang 12,657 units ng assault rifles para sa Philippine Army, na nagkakahalagang P486.06 milyon. Sa Disyembre ang dating po ng mga karagdagang baril na ito,' he said.
The President said the turnover of new rifles marks the end of the days when Filipino soldiers used only courage and talent in fulfilling their sworn duty.
He recalled in his speech an anecdote of Philippine Marines stationed at the Kalayaan Island Group. Since they had no cannons, the Marines cut down coconut trees and painted them black so that they would like cannons from afar.
"Nandiyan kayo tuwing may sakuna; hindi kayo nawawala sa mga oras ng peligro o kawalang-katiyakan; kayo ang nagsisiguro na nakakatulog nang mahimbing ang ating mga komunidad. Gayundin, pinapatunayan ninyo: Kapag kasangga natin ang sambayanang Pilipino, walang imposibleng gawain," he said.