Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has reminded soldiers to remain neutral in light of the upcoming general elections in May 2022.
In a statement released on Saturday, Lorenzana said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must be isolated from partisan politics “so they can focus on their noble work of protecting the people and the state.”
“Soldiers are not allowed to campaign for anybody. This is wrong,” he said. “Let us maintain the professionalism of the AFP.”
On September 24, President Rodrigo Duterte said he was ready to use the “might of the military not for any purpose but to see to it that the election is peaceful and violence-free.”
“The military is the guardian of our country and I could call them anytime to see to it that people are protected and [the] election’s freely, orderly exercised,” he said in a speech in Sultan Kudarat.
Under the Constitution, the Commission on Elections is empowered to deputize, with the concurrence of the President, law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the government, including the AFP during the conduct of elections.
Meanwhile, the AFP gave an update on the status of its campaign against communist rebels and terrorists for the third quarter of this year.
From July 1 to September 30, a total of 144 AFP-initiated engagements were made against the New People’s Army (NPA), resulting in the killing, apprehension, or surrender of 441 communist rebels.
Over 580 firearms were either surrendered or confiscated in military operations.
The military also said 1,272 “supporters and members of underground and front organizations have also withdrawn their membership and support” to the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front during the three-month period.
Three so-called guerilla fronts were also dismantled during the period, all operating in Mindanao.
The AFP also reported that a total of 55 Abu Sayyaf Group members, 75 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters members, and six Dawlah Islamiyah members have surrendered.
A total of 161 firearms were also seized from the terror groups.
“Let us continue to exceed our performances and address our identified gaps and shortfalls. We only have nine months remaining to complete the tasks under the present administration,” AFP chief General Jose Faustino Jr. said at a command conference on Friday.
“I enjoin everyone to offer their full energy to finish the CTG (communist terrorist group) and other threat groups before June 2022.” — Richa Noriega/VBL, GMA News