“The Armed Forces are the protectors of the people.”
This is a basic constitutional declaration.
But people also make up the officer corps and personnel of the AFP.
Needless to say, they come from all classes or kinds based on ethnicity, race, religion, political, ideological and other persuasions.
As members of the AFP, however, they are all sworn to uphold the Constitution, defend the republic from all enemies (internal or external), and protect the people from threats to their safety and security, and come to the rescue during calamities or disasters, and preserve the territorial integrity of the country as well as its natural resources for the benefit of all its citizens.
And so, one may be a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu or a free thinker and even non believer, but he or she has one basic mission: Defend the country and protect the people against both human and natural threats to life, liberty, and property.
And so the creation of a special military unit based on shared religious belief should be a test case for the loyalty of members of the AFP, and this should be, therefore, welcomed.
Thus, the AFP announced plans to create all-Muslim fighting units on Saturday, with quotas from the Catholic country's largest religious minority, as it looks to bolster efforts to tackle Islamic insurgents.
Five percent of all new applications will be allocated for Muslims under the new order, military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said in a statement, adding the eventual aim was to have a dedicated brigade or division to be deployed in the country's troubled south.
The Philippines is battling Muslim extremist militants in lawless southern regions, some of whom have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Arevalo said the Muslim quota, which roughly reflects the proportion of the religious minority in the population, would help the army operate in areas where it has been previously viewed with suspicion by local people.
"Most of our Muslim brothers and sisters perceive the deployment of almost 100 percent Christian soldiers in their communities as invading or occupational forces," he said, adding that fellow Muslims would be more aware of religious or cultural "sensitivities".
The statement did not give details of the existing numbers of Muslims in the military.
Mindanao, the ancestral homeland of the Muslim minority, has been locked in a separatist insurgency since the 1970s, with the conflict claiming more than 120,000 lives.
While the major rebel organizations have for years observed a ceasefire with the government as part of peace efforts, there are breakaway factions opposed to compromise and other gangs that have declared allegiance to the IS.
Earlier this week, security forces clashed with suspected Islamic militants from the Abu Sayyaf kidnap group on a popular resort island, the first attack on a local key tourist destination in recent years.