MANILA - "Private Amarillo, siguraduhin mong aalagaan mo ang baril na ito. Tratuhin mong parang asawa mo."
"Sir, yes, sir!"
With these words, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang Jr. handed over a brand new M-4 rifle to Private John Kevin Amarillo, a 21-year-old Army soldier who has only been serving in the Armed Forces for 11 months.
Amarillo and other members of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division were among the first 400 soldiers to receive the brand new 5.56mm M-4 rifles today as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.
"Gusto nating mapakita na ang mga nasa frontline ay kasama sa modernization," Catapang said.
The honor of facing a four-star general was not lost on the young Amarillo.
"Malaking-malaking bagay po ito sa akin. Minsan lang po ito sa aking buhay," he said.
Other recipients of the new firearms were the members of the Light Reaction Regiment of the Special Operations Command, also of the Philippine Army. The turnover took place in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
More than 50,000 new M-4s have been acquired by the AFP under its modernization program, 44,000 of which will be distributed to the Army, while the remaining 6,000 will be given to members of the Philippine Navy Marine Corps.
Savings during the procurement process allowed the government to buy some 12,000 more rifles apart from the 50,000 already in the delivery and distribution phase.
"Kasi yung mga baril natin na yan, pag binaril mo, paglabas ng bala nakabalagbag na. Although pag tinamaan ka ng balagbag na bala, mas madali ka mamamatay, pero hindi sigurado na tatama siya kasi nakatagilid na kung tumama," said Catapang, describing the old M-16 rifles.
In a ceremony, the soldiers fired their new weapons at a 100-meter and a 500-meter range target.
They then left their old M-16s in a crate, and marched away.
Plans are underway to distribute these older firearms to the reserve corps, or to have them refurbished.