Aquino: Filipinos no longer see soldiers as butchers

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said the military has changed since the time of retired Major General Jovito Palparan, who was the poster boy for the military's human rights abuses during the previous Arroyo administration.

"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, (This we can say: If in the past people feared your ranks because of your reputation as butchers, you are are now respected and trusted as true partners of the people)," Aquino said in a speech before soldiers on Thursday, August 12.

He cited the military's role in responding to natural calamities. 

The President was in Camp Aguinaldo for the ceremonial turnover of 50,000 brand new M4 Caliber 5.56mm assault rifles of the Army and the Marines. 

In his speech, he vowed a fair trial for the detained Palparan, who was arrested August 12 after nearly 3 years in hiding. He faces charges of kidnapping and illegal detention for the disappearance of two UP student activists. (READ: People of the Philippines vs Jovito Palparan)

Palparan is praised by soldiers for his aggressive campaign against communist rebels, but human rights groups have blamed him for the spate of extrajudicial killings and disappearances in areas he was assigned. (WATCH: Fugitive General Palparan arrested in Manila)

Military chief's orders

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr said he issued clear instructions to the troops to strictly adhere to human rights. (READ: New AFP chief tells troops: Ignore politics, no HR violations)

"My marching order during the International Humanitarian Law day is: "Defeat the enemies of the state without violating human rights or having collateral damage. Our campaign now is: Kawal disiplinado. Bawal abusado. Dapat asintado. (Soldiers should be disciplined, shoud not be abusive, and should be sharp shooters)," Catapang told reporters. 

Catapang dismissed allegations that there are soldiers who are following Palparan's notorious style. 

The military chief said they continue to monitor the status of Palparan becaues of his request for security. But he said the military can only do much for him because he is already retired. 

"The appeal of General Palparan is for his safety. If he wants additional security, he has to write us or inform us and then we will coordinate with the National Bureau of Investigation or whatever government instrumentatility we need to coordinate with," said Catapang. 

Remington's M4 rifles 

The acquisition of the new M4 assault rifles from US gun manufacturer Remington is part of the modernization of the Philippine military. 

The President himself joined military generals when they tried shooting the rifles over the weekend at the Marines headquarters in Taguig.

"One shot, he got it. Before he fired, the President asked how the sighting worked. I said dead center, so he fired and he hit the target," Catapang narrated. 

Catapang said he hopes that the excitement of the troops with their new M4 rifles would translate to better accuracy. 

The M4 rifles arrived from the US last month. Its transport from the Manila South Harbor to the military headquarters fueled coup rumors because of the convoy of military tanks and vehicles. –