Marcos signs law revising tenure of top AFP officials
President Marcos has signed the law amending the rules on the fixed terms and tours of duty of the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff and other senior military officials.
Republic Act No. 11939, or “An Act Further Strengthening Professionalism and Promoting the Continuity of Policies and Modernization Initiatives in the Armed Forces of the Philippines” signed on Wednesday, amended five sections of RA 11709, which was enacted during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte to put a stop to the “revolving-door policy” in the military establishment by fixing the terms of key officers.
Under the new law, only the chief of staff will have a maximum tour of duty of three consecutive years, unless sooner terminated by the President. A new provision also explicitly states that the compulsory retirement of the chief of staff will occur upon completion of the tour of duty or upon relief by the President.
Meanwhile, the maximum tour of duty for the commanding generals of the Philippine Army and the Philippine Air Force, and the flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy was reduced to two years from three years under the old law, and to two years from four years for the superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy.
Their tenures may still be shortened by the President and they are still not eligible for any promotion in the AFP except as chief of staff. They will likewise be compulsorily retired upon completion of their tours of duty or upon relief by the President.
The new rules removed the three-year tour of duty for the AFP vice chief of staff, the unified commanders, and the inspector general, who are no longer categorized as key officers.
Under the new law, all other military officials may be appointed or promoted to the grade of brigadier general, commodore or higher, except for the position of chief of staff or key officers, as long as they have at least one year of active service remaining before compulsory retirement.
RA 11939 also states that those in the grades of second lieutenant/ensign to lieutenant general/vice admiral will be compulsorily retired upon reaching the age of 57 or upon accumulation of 30 years of satisfactory active service, whichever comes first.
Under the previous RA 11709, those in the grade of brigadier general/commodore to lieutenant general/vice admiral must compulsorily retire at the age of 59.
Meanwhile, sections of RA 11709 regarding active duty definition, maximum tenure-in-grade for officers, and officer grade distribution were also revised by RA 11939.
The old law’s section on the forced attrition of enlisted personnel was repealed by the new law.
The Department of Defense was directed to draw up the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) upon effectivity of new law, which is 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general distribution.
The amendments will be applicable to officers and enlisted personnel appointed or promoted under RA 11709 and other previous laws.
The revisions came after the controversy created by President Marcos’ reappointment of Gen. Andres Centino as AFP chief of staff on Jan. 6 this year.
Centino, who was appointed on Nov. 12, 2021, by Duterte, was replaced on Aug. 8, 2022, by Bacarro, Mr. Marcos’ appointee.
However, since Centino was supposed to retire in February this year, Bacarro could not get promoted yet to the four-star general rank that Centino still held.
Bacarro was supposed to benefit from the three-year tour of duty provided under RA 11709, which took effect on July 1, 2022. At the time of his appointment, however, the old law had no IRR. The transition to the new retirement and separation system also resulted in delays in the career promotion of junior officers.
Up to now, Malacañang has not officially explained why Centino was reappointed to succeed Bacarro after the latter served as AFP chief for only four months.
The AFP has welcomed Mr. Marcos’ approval of the amendments to the fixed term of military officials.
RA 11939 provides “the much-needed amendments” to the RA 11709 signed a year ago, the AFP said in a statement.
“We believe that the changes will further strengthen professionalism in the military and ensure the continuity of programs while maintaining the AFP’s dynamic and progressive promotion system,” it said.
Defense officer in charge Carlito Galvez Jr. said in January that there were “grumblings” over the three-year fixed term for key positions due to concerns that it could delay the promotions of military personnel, thus affecting their morale.