Senate OKs bill seeking fixed term for AFP chief, top officials
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking a three-year fixed term for the chief of staff and other top military officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Senators unanimously voted in favor of Senate Bill No. 2376, which seeks to get rid of the “revolving door policy” in the AFP.
The bill aims to enhance the professionalization in the AFP by strengthening the merit system and allowing the new leadership a longer period to implement reforms and institutionalize sound policies seen to redound to the improvement of the organization.
“Time and again, we see leaders of our armed forces come and go through the ‘revolving door policy,’ staying in the office just to warm up their seats and not long enough to implement their legacy programs,” said Senator Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate national defense committee and sponsor of the bill.
“This state of things has always been a disservice to the mandates of the military leadership entrusted with the security and defense of the country,” he added.
According to Lacson, the bill seeks to address not only the “incongruous revolving policy” of the AFP but also the stringent restrictions of the Constitution, which mandates that laws on the retirement of military officers shall not allow for an extension of service.
“It goes without saying that this bill provides the much-needed ‘moral incentive’ to our military leaders. With their appointment at the helm of the AFP, they get the chance not only to learn the ropes but to actually steer the armed forces in the right direction,” Lacson added.
Under the measure, a fixed term of three years shall be given to the AFP chief of staff, vice chief of staff, the deputy chief of staff, the major service commanders (Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy), unified command commanders and inspector general.
It also provides a tour of duty of four years for the superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) but “shall not be eligible for any other position in the AFP and be compulsorily retired after the completion of the term.”
The bill also aims to change the compulsory retirement age of 56 to 59 or an accumulation of 30 years of satisfactory active duty, whichever comes earlier, for those in the grades of Second Lieutenant/Ensign (O-1) to Colonel/Captain (O-6).
The bill also provides that the retirement age of 59 or the maximum tenure-in-grade, whichever comes earlier, shall be effected for those in the grades of Brigadier General/Commodore (O-7) to Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral (O-9).
As for those occupying a key position, their retirement would come upon completion of the three-year fixed tour of duty regardless of age, unless promoted to Chief of Staff, relieved from the post, or is not designated to or occupying any position in the AFP’s table of organization.
Meanwhile, retirement for those commissioned under Presidential Decree No. 1908, and those appointed in the Corps of Professors, would be 60 years old or completion of 20 years of satisfactory active duty, whichever comes later, according to the bill.
The measure sets the compulsory retirement age for enlisted personnel to 56 or upon accumulation of at least thirty 30 years of satisfactory active duty, whichever comes later.
Further, the bill introduces a new tenure-in-grade or the allowable maximum year given to an officer or enlisted personnel in a certain grade or rank wherein those who fail to “go up the ladder” on account of their own fault, failure or negligence, or lack of individual merit shall be subjected to forced attrition or separated or retired from military service.
“The proposed stricter attrition system guarantees the succession of qualified and effective leaders in the AFP. This places a premium on professionalization and merit-based promotion and weeds out lame ducks in our military circles,” Lacson said.
If signed into law, the bill also prohibits a retired or resigned military officer from being appointed as Secretary of National Defense within one year from the date of his/her retirement or resignation.
“Genuine reforms in the military are long overdue. The military institution cannot afford to constantly hit-or-miss because of its ever-changing leadership and institutional environment,” Lacson stressed.
“ It needs continuity, stability, direction and a sense of professionalism that the members of the Sandatahang Lakas [Armed Forces] rightfully deserve,” he added.
The bill is a consolidation of measures filed by Senators Richard Gordon, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Manny Pacquiao.
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