President Rodrigo Duterte visited Sulu on Friday, December 1, to recognize the gallantry of Filipino soldiers who fought in liberating Marawi City after Islamic extremists occupied the city for several months.
“Unang-una nagpapasalamat ako sa inyo mga sundalo ng Republika ng Pilipinas sa sacrifice, sa pagtiis, sa lahat ng bagay, harapin ang kahirapan, kamatayan,” President Duterte said in his message after awarding the soldiers with the Order of Lapu- Lapu here in Camp General Teodulfo Bautista.
“We had this crisis in Marawi. And I know that the Filipino soldiers fought valiantly at tsaka we prevailed,” the President added, noting that he hates war and nobody wins in a civil strife.
He said he also came to Sulu to greet the troops Merry Christmas as he invited Muslims to join Christians in celebrating the holidays.
“So pumunta ako dito to greet you, well in advance, a very Merry Christmas. And to my Muslim brothers and sisters, celebrate with us the holidays. We would be glad to have you join us and we will be proud with your presence,” he said.
“It’s all for humankind that time, kung maaari lang. Wala naman tayong talagang hatred for each other to the point that we cannot talk together. We can celebrate Christmas together,” he said.
Telling the soldiers that he is a President for peace, President Duterte said he does not have authoritarian tendencies as a leader and he obeys the Constitution.
“Ikaw at ako, you know, we swore to protect the people and defend the Republic in its integrity and territorial bounds,” he said.
The President promised the soldiers to give them all they need to succeed in their mandate — from weapons to necessary equipment to be effective in the field.
He also assured that they will receive adjustment in their salaries by next year.
The President meanwhile warned of renewed threats from the communists after the cancellation of peace talks.
He said he halted the peace negotiations with the communists because of their continued attacks on government forces.
Duterte said the rebels have been demanding for a coalition government, which is something that he cannot compromise.
“So I told them, ‘I cannot give you what I do not own.’ Sovereignty is always placed in the hands of the elected people, ‘yung gusto ng tao,” he said.
In order for the members of the police and the military to effectively defend themselves whenever they are outside the camps, the President said he will provide them with pistols.
Aside from conferring the Order of Lapu-Lapu to soldiers who fought in Marawi City, the President also led the handover of side arms to the members of the Armed Forces deployed in Sulu.
Also present Friday were Hollywood actor Steven Seagal, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, Presidential Adviser for Military Affairs Arthur Tabaquero, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, PNP chief Dir. Gen. Ronald dela Rosa, Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Philippine Army commanding general Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista, and Joint Task Force Sulu commanding general Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana. ### (PND)