DELIVERED PROMISE. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with key government officials at the Malacañan Palace on Monday night (Feb. 21, 2022). Duterte said he is comfortable “with the thought that I have done my best” to deliver his promise to leave his office with a strong military within the government’s limited income. (Presidential photo by King Rodriguez)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said he is comfortable with the thought that he has done his best to deliver his campaign promise to leave Malacañang with a strong military despite the government’s limited income.

"Just one reminder, from the start of my administration, I think it was in Jolo where I said that ‘I will leave my office with a strong military.’ That's what I promised and within our limited income, dito sa gobyerno (of our government), setting aside the small but equitable portion of it sa military, naibigay ko naman siguro (in the military, I think I had delivered), especially in the upgrade of armaments," Duterte said in his prerecorded Talk to the People on Monday night.

Duterte made this comment in response to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s report on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program and the doubling of the salaries of all military personnel and pensioners.

Lorenzana said Duterte's strong support has inspired the AFP personnel to work better because they know they can adequately support their families with their salaries and do their mandated duty with the newly acquired military equipment.

"Napalaking tulong po ang ginagawa niyong pagdodoble ng salaries, ang sweldo ng mga active personnel (Doubling the salaries active personnel is a huge help to them)," Lorenzana told Duterte.

Lorenzana also said Duterte's support encouraged soldiers to work harder in fighting the enemies of the state, citing numerous successes of the military in combating terrorist groups in the country.

“Kaya po inspirado silang magtrabaho katulad nung tinatanong niyo kanina kung bakit napakalaki ng ating tagumpay laban sa mga komunistang rebelde at saka mga terrorist dahil po inspirado ‘yung mga sundalo, dahil po nagdoble ang suweldo nila. (That is why they are inspired to work like when you asked earlier why our victory against the communist rebels and terrorists is so great because the soldiers are inspired because their salaries have doubled),” he said.

He added that even the retired soldiers and other uniformed personnel also get adequate pensions from the government.

“Hanggang ngayon, Mr. President, ay nakakatanggap pa rin ako ng mga salita or words from soldiers and retirees pinapaabot na sa inyo ang pasasalamat nila sa inyong pagtataas, pagdodoble ng mga suweldo at saka pension (Until now, Mr. President, I am still receiving words from soldiers and retirees expressing their gratitude to you for your increase, double of salaries and also pension,” Lorenzana told Duterte.

Duterte said he will comfortably leave his office in June as he had already fulfilled his promise to the military.

“I am comfortable with the thought that I have done my best, lalo na ‘yung ipinangako ko sa military (especially the one I promised to the military),” he said. “It’s not just a campaign slogan. It was something that I concocted while I was in the years as a mayor and, you know, you have to have rapport with the police and the military for you to succeed.”

He said he is happy to see soldiers being promoted and getting what they deserve for protecting the nation and its people under his administration.

"’Yung buhay na ito wala naman kasiguruhan (This life has no assurance), let it be a policy that you care for people who die for you. ‘Yun talaga totoo dyan (That’s the truth). It leaves a -- not really a bad taste in the mouth to say it but, ‘yung bigyan mo ng (to give a) special treatment, aside ‘yung tao na (from the people that) at a given time, they are called upon to fight, and sadly, sometimes to die,” he said. “So, I made it promise to – I said that ‘I would double your salary’,” Duterte said.

Duterte said though there will be one or even five scalawags in a big organization, “but in the end, you are always rewarded” and “there is still a room for improvement for the organization to prosper.”

In his report, Lorenzana said the AFP has dismantled 47 guerrilla fronts (GFs) and “weakened” 15 other GFs, killing 1,032 New People’s Army (NPA) fighters and capturing 1,348 rebels from 2016 to 2021.

The military, he said, has also neutralized 1,544 Abu Sayyaf Group members, 971 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters members, and 1,427 Dawlah Islamiya terrorists.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana said there are only 41 remaining NPA fronts in the country.

Another 22,468 rebels and their supporters have surrendered while the number of confiscated and surrendered firearms reached 9,377, he added.

Around 6,418 former rebels and their dependents have also received financial assistance from the government.

The number of NPA-cleared barangays has reached 4,148 while those that were cleared of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters' influence are at 223.

"Ito po ‘yung barangays na gustong bigyan ng NTF ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) ng PHP20 million per year na Barangay Development Fund. Ang hinihingi po namin ay PHP28 billion pero ibinaba ng Senate to only PHP11 billion. Okay lang po ‘yun kasi imbes na PHP20 million per barangay ay magkakaroon sila ng PHP5 million per barangay. Sabi po ng mga probinsiya, 'okay na ‘yun kaysa wala' (These are the villages the NTF ELCAC wants to give funds worth PHP20 million per year under the Barangay Development Fund. We asked for PHP28 billion but it was cut by the Senate to just PHP11 billion. It's okay, instead of PHP20 million per barangay, we only PHP5 million per barangay. The provinces said, 'that's okay, it's better than nothing')," Lorenzana added.

He said the military assets that “started and completed” under Duterte’s term are two frigates, 16 Blackhawk helicopters, six Super Tucano aircraft, unmanned aerial system, one C-29s medium-lift aircraft, one G28 command, and control aircraft, one Pohang class corvette, two AH-1 Cobra helicopters, three multi-purpose attack crafts, 310 truck troop carrier (light), 215 track troop carrier (medium), and engineering equipment worth PHP427 billion.

Under the AFP modernization program, Lorenzana said 12 fighter aircraft, three fixed air surveillance radars, eight bell 412s combat utility helicopters, two C-130 aircraft, and two anti-submarine helicopters, all worth PHP96.86 billion, were started in the previous administrations but delivered in the last five years. (with report from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)