Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Defense Chief tells military to help in cash aid distribution

From the Manila Bulletin (May 12, 2020): Defense Chief tells military to help in cash aid distribution (By Martin Sadongdong)

On orders of President Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana instructed on Tuesday the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to assist the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the distribution of cash assistance to communities affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)

In an address to the public on Monday night that was aired on Tuesday morning, President Duterte tasked DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista — a retired Philippine Army chief himself — to seek help from the AFP in relaying government assistance to Filipino families amid the reported harassment of communist insurgents.

While the AFP has been assisting the Philippine National Police (PNP) in maintaining order in quarantine checkpoints (QCPs), Lorenzana expressed confidence that the military has enough personnel to respond to the Commander-in-Chief’s orders.

“The military will field sufficient force to defend the convoy from attack or the distribution center,” Lorenzana said.

“These distribution of aids are one day or two days at most. The assistance is needed especially in remote areas,” he added.

In response, General Felimon Santos, AFP Chief of Staff, told field commanders to institute “necessary adjustments” in the deployment of troops to adhere to Duterte’s orders.

“We feel the express desire of the President to provide immediate intervention measures to address the need to bring amelioration assistance to the people forthwith. The AFP will comply,” said Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson.

According to Lorenzana, the new directive was in response to the killing of two Army escorts who were providing security to social workers in Maria Aurora, Aurora province last month.

On April 21, the Army’s 7th Infantry Division (7 ID) said elements of the 91st Infantry Battalion (91 IB) were conducting security operations in Barangay Diaat while DSWD personnel were distributing cash assistance under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) when they were fired upon by an undetermined number of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

It prompted the soldiers to retaliate and the exchange of fire lasted for an hour, resulting in the death of two soldiers.

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