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PIA Press Release

Defense chief to AFP: Keep nation together; make RP First World

Quezon City (29 March) -- Emphasizing the "pivotal role" of the Armed Forces in the country told Sunday, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales in two recent occasions challenged the AFP to "keep the nation together" and to play its part in "(making) the country First World."

"In these critical times, when our institutions are challenged and questioned, when pillars of our society are being pelted, it is extremely important that strategic institutions in the country be mindful of the responsibility and the obligation of keeping the nation together," Gonzales said on Thursday, referring to the AFP.

Gonzales addressed colonels belonging to the Class 53 of the AFP Command and General Staff Course and the first graduates of a new masteral program on national security and development of the National Defense College of the Philippines, most of them middle-ranking military officers.

"I'm not saying this because I am the defense secretary? I have long realized the pivotal role of the AFP as an institution in the country today," he added.

Gonzales described the Filipinos today as "confused for lack of information at that particular moment when they are being asked to choose their next president."

On Friday, speaking in the graduation ceremony, Gonzales stressed the necessity for the Armed Forces to be very concerned about the country's politics.

"We should never be partisan, as members of the AFP. But we should be very, very interested in the field of politics because it is one of the main reasons why we are still Third World today," he said.

"The politics of the nation is messing us up, and we need to do something about it," Gonzales declared.

Gonzales said it is difficult to accept that the country is still poor because "we are a nation very rich in natural and human resources."

The defense chief said the nation should begin aspiring to become First World and he went on to point out the strategic role of the AFP in this endeavor.

Gonzales said rekindling the Filipino people's love for their country is a fundamental requirement in building a First World Philippines, and a proud AFP is the trigger to this. Hence the need to upgrade the capabilities of the AFP, he said.

"Don't forget that one of your fundamental duties is to march tall, putting in your mind and in your heart that you represent love of the country," the defense chief told the graduates.

Gonzales also extolled the importance of military officials continuing to serve in government beyond active service, saying "In some of the greatest nations in the world, their bureaucracies are manned by former military officials."

However, he noted that in the country, tapping former military officers for government service is seen unfavorably by some sectors. "When we start appointing military officers to our bureaucracy, we are saying that we are militarizing the bureaucracy. What's wrong with that?"

"We will have to erase the distinction between military and non-military if we are to move on and build a better country in the future," Gonzales said.

The defense chief also reminded the military officers against misinterpreting his point. "Do not think that just because the AFP is a strategic institution, you will be on top of our society. No."

"We are trying to strengthen the AFP as an institution so that we can do better in serving our people. Remember that we are just servants of our nation," Gonzales clarified. (DND) [top]

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