ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 09 July) — President Rodrigo Duterte’s aborted trip to Marawi last Friday introduced a new type of military attire not prescribed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) but who will dare say the AFP Commander in Chief violated the AFP Uniform Code?
The first Mindanawon President and the first with Maranao blood, dressed up for his visit to the country’s lone Islamic City on Day 46 of the Marawi Crisis, his second attempt in 29 days, in his own version of the AFP’s battle dress attire: digital camouflage uniform, sleeves rolled up, topmost button open, gray suede sneakers and gray ball cap, his Galil assault rifle slung on his right shoulder. And no bulletproof vest, just a white sando underneath. Or was he going to wear that later?
The military has at least five types of uniform: formal (mess jacket and white duck) for formal dinners, weddings, funerals and other formal ceremonies; semi-formal (service blouse and bush coat) for less formal events; daily wear (general office attire or GOA); combat uniform: battle dress attire (BDA) or battle dress uniform (BDU); and athletic uniform.
Duterte’s get up immediately drew reactions from supporters and critics.
Supporters liked and shared photos of the President in camouflage uniform, a number of them laughing at how “astig” (English translations: super cool, tough, macho, thug) “Tatay Digong” looked.
Critics said the President should have worn the authorized military attire and not demean the post of Commander in Chief especially since there is an AFP Uniform Code that prescribes the proper wearing of AFP uniforms “to present a respectable image of the AFP.”
The Code states that all military personnel shall strictly observe all provisions “to make sure that their attire is appropriate and presentable for the given occasion in keeping with the highest standards of military discipline.”
Supporters and critics alike said Duterte could pass off as member of the Cafgu (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit), BPAT (Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team) or even the NPA (New People’s Army). No, he could not be mistaken for a member of the Maute Group that his troops are fighting against in Marawi: the Maute members wear black.
A number also wondered what the brand of the suede sneakers was. A Geox Nebula?
Duterte’s attempt to visit Marawi to talk to his troops on Friday was cancelled, like June 8, due to “foul weather.”
Friday’s intended visit was not announced to the media, unlike his June 8 attempt when an embargo on story and video release was imposed until 6 p.m. that day.
It was only when photographs of Duterte at the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Iligan City were posted on Facebook by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) late Friday afternoon was it known that Duterte had attempted to visit Marawi.
“The President was supposed to go to Marawi City next, but decided not to push through because of inclement weather. Accompanying the President were his close-in security and Special Assistant to the President, Christopher ‘Bong’ Go,” the PCOO caption read.
The Facebook post did not mention that PCOO Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson was also in the President’s party to Marawi. She posted photographs of Duterte on the plane from Davao City to Cagayan de Oro and the helicopter ride supposedly to Marawi but landing instead in Iligan, and posted a video clip of her interview with Duterte.
Uson wrote that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) had made sure the President wore a bulletproof vest but Duterte had it removed. “Ayaw po mag bulletproof vest ni Tatay. Pinagsuot siya ng PSG sa eroplano ng vest pero pinatanggal din niya. Sabi niya, ‘I believe in destiny. If it’s your time, it’s your time.'”
Malacanang Photos did not release any photo from that aborted visit. Not one close-in photographer was with Duterte.
Duterte did not make it to Marawi on June 8. But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, accompanied by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza did, ahead of the 1:30 p.m. schedule.
Lorenzana announced to the troops and the media assembled in Camp Ranao that the President could not be in Marawi due to “foul weather.”
The embargo imposed that day was among the guidelines issued to journalists covering the event: “strictly no live broadcast; no social media posting, radio and TV news feed before and during the event” and “embargo story for release / airing until 6 p.m. today.”
Duterte was supposed to have been presented over a hundred firearms recovered from the Maute Group before giving a pep talk to his troops on June 8, Day 17 of the clashes between government forces and the terrorist group.
Lorenzana told the troops that the President wanted to visit Marawi “but because of foul weather hindi pwede i-risk ang kaligtasan ni Presidente (we cannot risk the safety of the President) with this kind of weather.”
He said Duterte was “not continuing his trip here” but would go to Cagayan de Oro (from Davao City) to “visit some troops who were wounded.”
Message to troops
On July 3, the President addressed his troops in Marawi from Malacanang’s Study Room through a video message where he commended his troops for their relentless effort and determination to retake Marawi City from the Maute Group and other local terrorist groups and urged them to “carry on until our objective of wiping out these enemies of the state and the people has been achieved.”
He asked them to “honor and remember our fallen comrades” and assured soldiers wounded in action and families of those killed in battle, that their needs will be attended to.
“My salute goes to all of you there. Maraming salamat. Mabuhay kayong lahat. Hindi ko kayo kalimutan at hindi ko kayo pababayaan,” Duterte added.
Upon arrival in Davao City from Iligan on Friday, Duterte said he wanted to go to Marawi “to be with the men, the fighting forces of government.”
“I should show my face there,” Duterte said, adding it would not be good if he goes there when it is already “peace time.”
“Somehow, during the fighting, you should show yourself to (your men to show) that you are with (them, are one with them) in our desire to protect the Republic,” Duterte added.
“We were circling many times but we could not penetrate the — well, it was really squall. So, we waited in the camp (in Iligan) for the skies to clear up,” he said.
As of July 7, 87 soldiers have been killed in action in Marawi since May 23, according to Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella during the “Mindanao Hour” press briefing hours before Duterte attempted to visit Marawi.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters in Marawi City on July 6 that around 500 soldiers have been wounded in action. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)