THE image of the Filipino soldier has significantly evolved from being excellent in combat to being outstanding in dealing with civilians or non-combatants, a military official said.

Major General Carlos Holganza, chief of the Army's 10th Infantry Division, said training soldiers to care for people is just one of the four goals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) this year.

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The other three goals include concern for the environment, deeper involvement in infrastructures and development activities, and playing an active non-partisan role in credible elections this May.

"We want to have soldiers who are more respected than feared," Holganza told the East Davao Rotarians whose current president is Ronald C. Go, a helicopter pilot and transportation entrepreneur who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1985.

Soldiers want to shed off their purely combatant image, he said.

Instead of just the tall, muscular, Rambo-type of a fighter, it is no longer a rarity to see a soldier who is not so tall, may be just five feet tall, wearing thick glasses and working on a computer of a laptop. He is one who is aware that the insurgency cannot be won by just fighting wars, said the major general who earlier commanded the First Scout Ranger Regiment.

"He knows that the side which gets the message across wins the war," Holganza said.

Aside from the four external objectives, Holganza said the Army also wants to be known for caring for its own soldiers, always ready with programs and activities designed to hone the soldier's people skills and combat prowess.

He told Rotarians that the military's mission now is getting all other sectors of society in the fight against the country's security threats.

He said the communists are now adopting the Nepalese model, which is trying to take over the government through elections.

"This is okay...except that they have an armed group, the New People's Army (NPA)," Holganza said.

He called the NPA as the communists' "National Private Army."

In a meeting with the Philippine National Police and Commission on Elections few weeks ago, Holganza said the NPA should be treated as a partisan armed group since it is the country's biggest criminal and extortion group. (BOT)