'Biggest challenge is process of normalization'
Our Constitution has bestowed on us the distinct title of being the protectors of the people and the state, with the goal of securing the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory. We intend to fulfill this constitutional mandate through the following thrusts: winning the peace, securing our national territory, and assisting in disaster response and rehabilitation.
Our Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) is working because of the Bayanihan spirit that has been rekindled in all stakeholders. Together as a people, we are closer to winning the peace. As the AFP takes on a support role in achieving and maintaining peace and security, we see more empowered communities and deepening of democratic institutions – the foundations of a peaceful society.
We are inspired by the developments in the peace process with the MILF, the CPLA, and the RPM-P/RPA/ABB. The signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is a national triumph for peace. It is also a giant stride for IPSP Bayanihan.
Our active support for and adherence to the primacy of the peace process has greatly contributed in the forging of the Agreement. We hope that the CPP-NPA-NDF will likewise pursue the road to peace and abandon the armed struggle. As we have long realized, armed struggle is not the solution to our problems.
We recognize that the biggest challenge ahead is the process of normalization. The details of this are still being discussed by the respective peace panels, but definitely, the AFP will be fully supportive of its implementation.
The success of IPSP Bayanihan is anchored on the coming together of the entire Filipino nation in the pursuit of peace. We need your help. Join us in calling for an end to armed violence and in advocating peace, to allow us to focus on the important task of securing the sovereignty of our state and the integrity of our national territory, and protecting our people from the adverse effect of climate change and environmental degradation.
As we support the peaceful and diplomatic resolution of territorial issues, we shall endeavor to provide a credible defense posture worthy of the heroism of our forefathers. We need to upgrade our joint and combined operations capabilities to be able to contain any external threats.
We shall also continue to contribute in ensuring regional and international peace and stability – a global Bayanihan – through strengthened and increased bilateral and multilateral engagements with our neighbors and allies. We will endeavor to send more UN Peacekeeping forces and develop capabilities to assist other nations in responding to natural calamities, just as our friends and allies have come to our aid in times of disaster.
Worse than armed conflict
Indeed, in recent years, the effects of climate change have been more adverse than armed conflict. This is an emerging concern that we need to pay serious attention to.
Your soldiers have risked their own safety, and some have even laid down their lives to save our people during natural disasters. We shall continue to upgrade our disaster rescue and relief operations capabilities and take part in proactive measures such as environmental protection to mitigate adverse effects of disasters.
We must ensure that the AFP, as an organization, is capable of performing its mandated tasks. Thus, I will carry on and sustain security sector reform initiatives that we have already started, focusing on two major agenda: capability development and professionalization.
We shall give priority to developing a professional, strong and fully-mission capable joint force. We will develop our mission-essential capabilities in internal security, territorial defense, and disaster rescue and relief operations, as well as build-up a robust and reliable reserve force.
The most important asset of the AFP is its personnel. Hence, the top consideration in our Capability Development Program is the professionalization of the men and women behind the machines. The competency of the individual soldier must be developed. Each soldier must know his job and perform his job well.
Soldiers shall be held to high ethical standards and strict codes of conduct. The trust of the people is vital in the performance of our delicate mandate as protectors of the people and the state. We shall continue to advance the “daang matuwid” of our Commander-in-Chief.
We are likewise sworn to protect our democratic institutions and processes. Your AFP shall remain non-partisan in the upcoming May elections. You can count on us to assist in ensuring honest, credible, orderly and peaceful elections.
Likewise, we cannot but overemphasize adherence to human rights, International Humanitarian Law, and the rule of law as imperatives in all military undertakings. We shall harness the support of civil society, as well as national and multilateral monitoring bodies, in ensuring that these principles are promoted, respected, and protected.
In the same token, the morale and motivations of our soldiers are important if we expect them to attain a high level of professionalism. Thus, we shall, among others, improve the health care extended to our soldiers and their dependents, and increase the survivability of our soldiers in the frontlines. We shall also ensure and strengthen the implementation of policies for a merit-based promotion system.
On our reform initiatives, we adhere to the thrusts of the government’s security sector reform agenda and focus on promoting good governance and performance excellence.
We shall carry on with our various transformation initiatives and ensure that all of these are aligned with the Defense Transformation Roadmap, in order to institutionalize and ensure sustainability of these efforts. Let us improve critical systems and processes by optimizing the Defense System of Management.
We shall abide by the tenets of good governance with emphasis on transparency, accountability, fairness, and the observance of human rights, international humanitarian law, and rule of law. We shall adhere to democratic control and oversight mechanisms.
To fully and effectively perform our constitutional mandate and undertake our reform initiatives, we need the support and participation of all stakeholders, both internal and external to the organization.
To my fellow soldiers, let us focus on our mandate. Let us be open to changing mindsets and paradigms. Transformation will not happen with a simple snap of a finger; we have to work hard, and work together to achieve our common goals and aspirations.
To our partners, stakeholders, our bosses – the Filipino people, for you and with your help, we will endeavor to achieve our vision of having a world-class armed forces that is a source of national pride. - Rappler.com
(These are excerpts from the assumption speech of Lt Gen Emmanuel Bautista, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, on Thursday, January 17, in Camp Aguinaldo.)