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AWOL soldiers among threat concerns – AFP

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
AWOL soldiers among threat concerns � AFP
AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said in an interview yesterday over dzBB that Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. has ordered his command to strengthen counter-intelligence and closely monitor discharged soldiers so they can be prevented from using their skills and training for criminal activities.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now considering dishonorably discharged soldiers as threat concerns, citing the involvement of three former military men in the killing of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo.

Acknowledging that former soldiers with training and skills may be used for criminal activities, the military assured concerned officials and the public that steps are being taken to address the issue.

AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said in an interview yesterday over dzBB that Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. has ordered his command to strengthen counter-intelligence and closely monitor discharged soldiers so they can be prevented from using their skills and training for criminal activities.

Aguilar stressed, however, that there are only a few dishonorably discharged soldiers or those who have gone AWOL who got involved in criminal activities.

He said the involvement of former soldiers in the Degamo assassination was a unique case.

“This one is so heinous,” he said, referring to the killing of Degamo and several others in broad daylight on March 4.

“I think these people have already forgotten their training and education – that the soldier’s duty is to protect the people,” he said in Filipino.

“So this is the culture that we have to nurture – and of course the camaraderie – that we have a common mission to accomplish and that is the constitutional mandate to protect our people,” he added.

Aguilar said the recruitment process in the AFP is very strict, as it includes a neuro-psychiatric test.

“If you don’t pass this test, you can’t be a soldier because it’s very hard to entrust a firearm to someone not mentally stable and with violent tendency,” he pointed out.

He stressed that the training is not just about overpowering an enemy and that the main objective is to protect the people.

“It should be the priority, the primordial task of the military, fighting threats is just consequential,” Aguilar said.

“The Army is bolstering its values formation and character development programs. A soldier with strong core values stays ethical, disciplined, and professional even off the battlefield and beyond military service,” Army spokesman Col. Xerxes Trinidad said.

“We are also considering the review of the Philippine Army Transition Assistance Program which offers opportunities for education, training, livelihood, legal services, and financial counseling for retiring personnel for retiring soldiers. We are looking at possibly expanding this program to include dishonorably discharged soldiers to help them start anew with their civilian lives,” he announced yesterday.

“We are also exploring the possibility of creating a dedicated counter-intelligence unit that will work closely with the Philippine National Police to prevent illegal acts that may be committed by current or former Army soldiers,” he added.

Trinidad noted that the Philippine Army has always been a highly professional organization dedicated to serving the people and securing the land.

“We call on all former soldiers to seek help if they are struggling with the transition to civilian life and to think carefully about the consequences of engaging in illegal activities,” he added.

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AFP

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