A MERRY Christmas awaits members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who have been promised doubled pay by President Rodrigo Duterte .
Speaking at Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City Friday night, Duterte told the soldiers: “|By December, you’d have doubled your salaries. This August, umpisa na, ngayong August. Tignan ninyo iyang pay checks ninyo. Nandiyan na iyan,” the President said eliciting cheers from about 200 soldiers gathered at the Bondad Hall inside Camp Lapu-Lapu, Centcom headquarters in Cebu City
Duterte initially announced a salary increase for men and women in uniform during his visit in Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija on July 26. He said soldiers’ pay will have an incremental increase starting August and tasked Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to find a way to deliver.
Duterte has promised soldiers not only better pay but also better medical facilities and better military equipment.
He told the soldiers that he is not trying to get their personal loyalty, but was just trying to make sure the country’s defenders are secure.
“Wala kayong problema. Lahat ibigay ko,” the commander-in-chief told his men.
Also, Duterte asked for the cooperation of the military especially in the war against illegal drugs.
Aside from increasing their pay, the President said that he would improve the equipment of the AFP Medical Center in Camp Aguinaldo.
Among the facilities that would be purchased for the AFP Medical Center are Gamma X-ray, high pressure oxygen chambers and an MRI machine.
President Duterte also assured the soldiers that he would back them up if they would get sued while doing their jobs.
“Uunahin ko kayo (I will make you my priority),” Mr. Duterte told the soldiers from the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Earlier, Duterte visited Camp Macario Peralta, headquarters of the Philippine Army 3rd Infantry Battalion in Capiz, before flying to Cebu on board a private plane that landed at Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base at 6:57 p.m. and took a chopper to Centcom.
He immediately held a security briefing with military officials in the Visayas led by Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar, Centcom chief.
He went up the stage at 9:45 p.m. and apologized to the soldiers for keeping them waiting.
“I don’t need your personal loyalty. Just love the country and obey the Constitution,” he said.
The President urged them to do their mandate and he would do the rest.
He said police and the Army shouldn’t be worried about cases filed against them in the course of their work because he would pardon them.
“If you rape someone, you’ll go to jail. If you shoot someone on the job and you get sued… pardon,” he said.
He also mentioned the rising numbers of drug suspects who have surrendered which he said reached about 500,000 and of drug-related killings.
He said that while it is necessary to put drug users inside rehabilitation centers, some of them may already be beyond help.
“Forensics experts say that if you’ve been a constant drug user for one year, your brain shrinks. Rehab is no longer viable,” he said.
Duterte asked the military to provide a space in their camp for drug rehabilitation centers.
President Duterte also warned that terrorism will become a problem for the Philippines, pledging that he will ensure that the military will be prepared by adding more soldiers. A budget should be allocated for the enlistment and training of 10,000 more personnel to beef up the AFP by yearend, he said.