Bill amending law on AFP officers' fixed term sponsored in Senate plenary
The bill limiting the coverage of the three-year fixed term in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was sponsored in the Senate plenary on Tuesday.
Senate national defense committee chairman Jinggoy Estrada reported out Senate Bill 1849 containing Committee Report No. 23 which seeks to amend Republic Act 11709.
Under SB 1849, the tour of duty will be limited to five tenured key officers:
- AFP chief of staff: maximum tour of duty of three years
- Philippine Military Academy superintendent: maximum tour of duty of four years
- commanding generals of the Philippine Army and Philippine Air Force, and flag officer of the Philippine Navy: tour of duty of two years
All other key officers namely vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, unified command commanders, and inspector general will now be allowed lateral movement provided that an appointment to a tenured key position will be covered by the one-year prohibition on promotions.
According to Estrada, the Senate bill reintroduces the one-year period of prohibition for promotions which was removed by RA 11709 and reinstitutes the previous tenure-in-grades of colonels or commanders and brigadier generals or commodores.
"Officers may only be eligible for promotion to the rank of Brigadier General/Commodore or higher if he/she has at least one year remaining of active service before compulsory retirement. This will address a major issue in the implementation of RA 11709 by preventing 'photo finish' promotions of generals/flag officers despite having a few months or days left before retiring," he said.
The proposed bill removes enlisted personnel from the coverage of RA 11709.
It seeks to revert to the previous system where the promotion, separation and maximum allowable tenure of enlisted personnel will be governed by the issuances of the Department of National Defense and the AFP.
Estrada said this will give the DND and the AFP flexibility in adjusting policies concerning our enlisted personnel depending on their developing and expanding needs.
SB 1849 also seeks to introduce a graduated age of compulsory retirement for generals and flag officers.
Under the proposed measure, the compulsory age of retirement for one-star generals is 57; two-star generals is 58; three-star generals is 59 but if the officer is occupying a tenured key position, the maximum tour of duty will take precedence.
Lastly, the Senate bill will reintroduce the percentages on officer grade distribution provided under Republic Act 9188 but the basis will be the AFP Table of Organization.
Estrada said this will give the DND and the AFP leeway in determining their force structure by basing the said percentages on the AFP Table of Organization.
He mentioned that under RA 11709, the Defense secretary is mandated to ensure the decrease in the number of generals/flag officers from 190 to 164 before April 13, 2023.
Allocations for additional positions, however, are still subject to justification with the Department of Budget and Management.
The amendments on the tour of duty, compulsory age of retirement, and maximum tenure-in-grade under the Senate bill will be applied to those appointed or promoted on July 1, 2022 onwards or during the effectivity of RA 11709.
By doing so, Estrada said it will immediately address the issues and concerns on the implementation of RA 11709, particularly the bottleneck in the promotions.
During the hearing on the Senate bills amending the said law, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. admitted that there are "rumblings" within the military ranks due to the "unintended consequences" of RA 11709.
RA 11709 grants three-year fixed terms for key AFP officials, including the chief of staff.
The measure which seeks to prevent the "revolving door policy" in the AFP was signed by former President Rodrigo Duterte months before he stepped down from office.
Last December, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has certified House Bill 6517, which seeks to amend RA 11709, as urgent.
Marcos said the bill will further enhance the policies and initiatives towards maintaining a responsive and professional AFP personnel.
HB 6517 has already been passed by the House of Representatives on third and final reading.—AOL, GMA Integrated News