Who is the most 'doting' Philippine Commander-in-Chief?
Who among Philippine presidents has proven to be the most doting Commander-in-Chief, so far?
For President Rodrigo Duterte, it's a tie between him and the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Between them, no one else seemed to compare, Duterte implied in remarks to troops in Camp General Teodulfo Bautista in Barangay Bus-Bus, Jolo, on Friday, December 1, where he awarded medals to soldiers who fought in the Marawi siege, gave cash assistance to the wounded, and wished troops an advance merry Christmas.
He also gave watches to birthday celebrants that day – including his own watch, which he took off and handed over to the most senior among the celebrants on stage.
“Never was a time – hindi ako nagyayabang – walang ibang presidente, dalawa lang ang nagbigay ng atensiyon na kinakailangan para sa sundalo. Ako lang pati si Marcos (Never was a time – I'm not bragging – no other president, there are only two who gave the needed attention to soldiers. It's only me and Marcos),” Duterte said.
“Marcos was also a lover of soldiers,” he added, but did not elaborate.
It can't be argued that Marcos indeed paid extra attention to the military during his regime. In nearly half of his 21-year-rule, he placed the country under martial law to keep his grip on power. The military was tainted by human rights abuses and became highly politicized during his watch, triggering an effort among idealistic young officers and their similarly-minded seniors to reform the Armed Forces.
Duterte has openly admired Marcos, and calls him the best Philippine president – if not for his dictatorship. Duterte is also friends with the Marcos family, and supported their patriarch's burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani amid strong opposition from survivors and families of victims of martial law and other groups.
'I'm not a despot'
In the same speech, the President assured soldiers that he was not "a despot." He said that contrary to how he was being portrayed by some quarters, he was a "president for peace."
"We would like to seek peace. 'Wag sana kayo magmisinterpet sa aking mga diskarte. Kasi po, I am a president for peace. I am not an authoritarian, aristocratic, a despot. Hindi ako 'yan. Tayo limitado sa Constitution. Ikaw at ako, we swore to protect the people and defend the Republic, its sovereignty, and territorial bounds," he said.
(We would like to seek peace. Don't misinterpret my strategies because I am a president for peace. I am not an authoritarian, aristocratic, a despot. That's not who I am. We are limited by the Constitution. You and I, we swore to protect the people and defend the Republic, its sovereignty and territorial bounds.)
A day earlier, on Thursday, November 30, various groups held rallies either protesting or supporting the declaration of a revolutionary government in the country. The President himself had broached the idea to quell any destabilization plot against him, but said it would not happen under his watch.
Malacañang said on Friday that such a declaration was an option if the Duterte administration was "in its death throes."
The President devoted much of his Jolo speech to honoring the sacrifice and courage of soldiers. He assured them that he had kept his promise to increase their salaries and give them side weapons.
He also said he would have a satellite dish installed in the camp so that the soldiers can have access to "CNN" and see "what is happening in the world."
"It’s a crazy world," Duterte said, adding that even mosques and holy shrines were being attacked by terrorists. (READ: PH slams 'cowardly' attack on Sinai mosque)
As another special treat to soldiers, Duterte brought with him his "good friend," Hollywood actor Steven Seagal who, he said, really wanted to join him on the camp visit.
"Give us a few words about your thoughts on the Filipinos and the sacrifices that my soldiers have to do and maybe some inspiring words," Duterte told Seagal, who took the lectern on the other end of the stage. (READ: Action star Steven Seagal rallies troops in Jolo for Duterte)
The actor told the soldiers, "Every day, you have to tell yourself, this isn’t going to be won today, this is going to be a long battle but slowly, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, the enemy will be smaller and smaller and they will be gone to the point where it is absolutely and positively controllable."
Duterte ended his remarks with an announcement that he would shoulder the Christmas party expenses of the camp, including the roast calf. He also promised Hong Kong trips to 4 people who would be on duty in the camp during the holidays.
The President has made military camp visits a regular fixture in his schedule since the start of his term. Among Commanders-in-Chief in recent memory, he seems unrivaled in terms of frequency of camp visits, leading some to ask whether the purpose goes beyond just boosting troop morale. (READ: Why has Duterte visited 14 military camps in less than a month?) – Rappler.com
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