Hollywood action star Steven Seagal (right) listens as President Duterte speaks before soldiers at a military camp in Jolo, Sulu province, on Friday. The President said Seagal, who is shooting a television series in the country, had asked to join him in Sulu and told him, “Just give me an M4 (assault rifle) and I’ll be OK.” —VIDEO GRAB FROM PCOO
President Duterte had a surprise for soldiers he came to visit in Sulu on Friday—Hollywood action star Steven Seagal.
Mr. Duterte said Seagal, who is in the country to shoot a television series, “General Commander,” had asked to join him in Sulu.
Seeking to boost the troops’ morale at a military camp at Barangay Busbus in Jolo, Sulu, the President said he is the only President, save for Ferdinand Marcos, who has given so much attention and care to soldiers.
Mr. Duterte said he came to give them sidearms so they could protect themselves, especially from attacks by the New People’s Army, even when they were not on duty.
Promise of salary raise
He again promised to double their salaries and to give them everything they would need to succeed against the rebels and terrorists.
“I told you if you have a problem or if you cannot solve your problem here, just call me. Maybe, just maybe, I can solve it. I will give you all the tools (you need),” the President said.
His visit, he said, was intended to greet them a Merry Christmas in advance as well. Muslim soldiers were welcome to join in the yuletide celebrations, he added.
But before his pep talk, he asked Seagal to give a message to the soldiers.
“I’d like to commend you all for your commitment to your country, your President, and commitment to do the things you have to do to make the Philippines safe,” Seagal said.
He said he looked forward to discussing ways to combat the country’s problems on insurgency, as well as drug, human and organ trafficking, with the President.
“I know you guys put your lives on the line everyday. I myself have done and will do the same thing, so I understand that this is serious business. And I believe there is a formula that can help the Armed Forces, the police, the intelligence network, to combat these very, very well,” he said.
The action film mogul said war was winnable, but the fight would be a long one. “The idea is to annihilate the enemy through attrition,” he said.
The President, who regularly visits military camps across the country, told the soldiers that he was really impressed with their service.
‘Lover of soldiers’ like Marcos
He likened his “love for soldiers” to that of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“Never was a time—I’m not being boastul—no other President, just two, gave the attention that a soldier would need. Just me and Marcos. Marcos was also a lover of soldiers,” he said.
Marcos had put the Philippines under martial law and ruled for 20 years.
Explaining why he wanted to give soldiers new sidearms, Mr. Duterte said that “unlike the policemen, you do not have sidearms. So when you walk out, you’re sitting ducks.”
The President also warned the soldiers that “another strife is coming” because the NPA had “become brazen.”
The rebels, he said, killed soldiers and police officers while the ceasefire was in place. One of the slain soldiers had 73 gunshot wounds, which incensed him and prompted him to call off the talks earlier this year.
“We have been trying to fix this thing for 50 years and [the NPA wants] another 50 years. I cannot do anything anymore. They don’t want peace talks,” he said. “But don’t say one day that I have not tried to reach out. I was the first to do it by releasing political prisoners.”
He also promised to bring to Hong Kong the soldiers who would be left behind at the Jolo camp during the holidays.
They could bring their mistresses so that they would have a better time during the vacation, he joked. If they brought their wives, they might just end up fighting, he said. —WITH REPORTs FROM JULIE ALIPALA AND ALLAN NAWAL