Bill amending AFP tour of duty hurdles Senate’s final reading
MANILA, Philippines — A bill seeking to address concerns on the term of office of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials hurdled the Senate on second and third readings on Monday.
Senate Bill No. 1849, or an act amending sections of Republic Act (RA) No. 11709 or the Act Strengthening Professionalism and Promoting the Continuity of Policies and Modernization Initiatives in the AFP, was sponsored by Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
The bill proposed modifications to the law to end the “grumblings” in the military.
“I hope that this measure will usher improved morale for our soldiers and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It sends a clear message that this Senate, their Senate, is one with our gallant soldiers and heroes as they perform their noble duty of protecting and defending our beloved country against aggressors and enemies,” Estrada said during the plenary session following the bill’s approval.
“Andito po ang inyong Senado para alalayan kayo sa bawat laban na inyong kakaharapin [Your Senate is here to assist you in each fight that you will face]. This bill will also provide the AFP with the flexibility, stability and dynamism to adequately adapt and respond to the demands of the uncertain times,” he added.
The bill was approved on the second and final reading on the same day, despite the three-day rule, because it was certified as urgent by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Estrada, Senate Committee on National Defense and Security chairperson, pointed out that RA No. 11709 prompted “uneasiness, demotivation, and adversely affected the morale of our troops.”
Under the approved version, the bill reverted to the retirement age of 56 except for the chief of staff and commanding generals of the three major services and the superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), who will retire once their tour of duty has been finished, unless sooner terminated by the president.
From the fixed term of duty for 14 key officers under the law, the green-lighted bill likewise limits the maximum tour of duty to five key officers: three years for the AFP Chief of Staff; two years for the commanding general of major services and the PMA superintendent.
The vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, unified command commanders, and inspector general will be cleared from the list of officers with a fixed term of three years.
Further, the officer must have at least a year of remaining active service before his/her mandatory retirement to be qualified for appointment or promotion to the brigadier general or commodore or higher grade.
The one-year prohibition, said Estrada, aims to resolve the major concern in implementing RA No. 11709 by preventing “photo finish” promotions of generals and flag officers despite retiring in a few months or days.
“We are still fostering the continuity of policies for the officers with a maximum tour of duty but at the same time affording the subsequent commission classes a fair and equitable opportunity to compete for promotions to these positions,” Estrada noted.
“As I said in my sponsorship speech, I am not against attrition. I believe that weeding out non-performers and lame ducks in the organization is crucial, if not at the heart of ensuring professionalism and maintaining only the best and the brightest, the cream of the crop in the AFP,” he went on.