MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's first order to new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lieutenant General Rey Guerrero is the destruction of all firearms from past armed confrontations to ensure they don't reach the wrong hands.
"I will now request the Chief of Staff, General Guerrero, to supervise the destruction of all arms, whether high-powered or hand guns, all of it will be destroyed in some place to show that we are also able to meet the challenges of terrorism and violence," said Duterte on Thursday, October 26.
He was speaking at the AFP change of command ceremony in which Guerrero formally assumed the military's top post upon the retirement of General Eduardo Año.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Duterte was referring to almost 2,000 weapons seized from terror groups and communists in some 800 armed confrontations.
Lorenzana said the order is meant to ensure that firearms do not get "lost" or "misplaced," eventually ending up in the hands of enemies of the state.
"He is referring to the more than, almost 1,000 captured firearms and also those we can recover later on, let's destroy them so they don't go back – because if we keep them, they might get misplaced and get back to the mainstream criminals," said the defense chief.
During his speech, Duterte was all praises for Año and his "distinguished leadership" of the AFP.
"The crowning jewel of his impressive career is none other than the battle for the liberation of Marawi, which resulted [in] the neutralization of almost a thousand ISIS-inspired insurgents which include high-value targets being [hunted] around the world," said Duterte.
With Guerrero as the new military chief, the President hopes the AFP will "remain at the forefront" of the battle against internal and external threats. (READ: No word yet if new AFP chief will serve beyond 2 months)
"The Philippine Rise belongs to the Republic of the Philippines and it is our territory. And let it be announced today, to the whole world that we are claiming it for our people and country," said Duterte.
In the audience were Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua and United States Ambassador Sung Kim.
Duterte's last words in his speech were dedicated to the government troops who died to liberate Marawi City.
"I say a little prayer every night for the soldiers and police," said the President, adding that, every time he reads his briefer with the Marawi government death toll, he is "always on the verge of tears." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.