DAVAO CITY – Military forces in southern Philippines has on Wednesday assured citizens that it will remain loyal to the Constitution and will follow the chain of command after security leaders said some sectors were trying to drag the military into the political fray.
Army Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command based in Davao City, hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, said they are solid and undivided.
“We shall remain loyal to the Constitution and chain of command amidst the political turmoil. While there are prevailing issues which some sectors are trying to drag the military into the fray, Eastern Mindanao Command, together with its subordinate units, remains committed and focused in our task to secure our communities from terrorist and other lawless elements, and allow no one to take advantage of the situation to carry out their ill-intentions,” he said.
The statement came out following Duterte’s challenge to soldiers sympathetic to Senator Antonio Trillanes, to join the former coupist and leader of the rightist Magdalo Group, after the President revoked the politician’s amnesty granted by then President Benigno Aquino, now an opposition leader.
Trillanes said he has supporters in the military. But Duterte accused Trillanes of conspiring with communist rebels and opposition figures of plotting to overthrow him, an allegation the senator denied. Trillanes has also accused Duterte as supporter of the New People’s Army and blamed him for releasing many communist rebel leaders from prison to join the peace talks which eventually collapsed.
Balagtey said while they recognize soldiers have their own view and opinion, “rest assured that the Eastern Mindanao Command, and the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines, for that matter, remains solid, professional, and focused on our mission to secure our communities, facilitate the delivery of services to our people, and address threats to our peace and security,” he said.
The Eastern Mindanao Command – under Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. – is one of two major military headquarters in southern Philippines and has control over half of the region’s army, navy and air force.
The other is Western Mindanao Command which is in Zamboanga City and under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega. It also follows the chain of command and strongly adheres to the military’s “Transformation Roadmap” – the Armed Forces’ guide towards organizational change and of better service to the country, according to its spokesman, Lt. Col. Gerry Besana.
“The Constitution bestows upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines the sacred mandate of being protector of the people and the state. Throughout the years, the Armed Forces have remained steadfast in fulfilling its mandate,” he said.
The Transformation Roadmap aims to transform the Armed Forces into a strong and credible institution built on good governance. It serves as the AFP’s strategy in pursuing reform initiatives within the framework of Security Sector Reform and geared towards two strategic priorities – capability development and professionalization of all ranks – for better and stronger Armed Forces.
Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez has earlier warned troops not to meddle or take part in partisan politics, saying, “Ourloyalty is to the Constitution. I command the troops to adhere to the rule of law and always obey the chain of command.”
Galvez said those who violate his order “will be dealt with severely and personnel who will get involved will be immediately relieved from their posts and investigated.”
Madrigal, Dela Vega and Galvez are all veterans, who fought rebel forces and terrorists in the troubled region of Mindanao. Madrigal was former commander of the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City in northern Mindanao; Dela Vega was previously the commander of the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao province in central Mindanao where he battled Islamic militants and communist insurgents, while Galvez headed the Western Mindanao Command and led security forces in battling Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf fighters who occupied Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province last year, but he also stayed long in Basilan province to fight the Abu Sayyaf and pro-ISIS militants. (Mindanao Examiner)
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