Defense chief admits ‘grumbling’ in military over delayed promotions

(MANILA TIMES) DEFENSE Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. admitted during a Senate hearing on Tuesday that there was grumbling within the military due to the delayed promotions.

Galvez issued the statement in response to a query by Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada on whether the unintended consequences of the country’s retirement law have gravely affected the morale of soldiers. The most affected are those from Classes 90, 91, 92, 93, and 94, he said.

Estrada, as chairman, presided over the National Defense’s hybrid hearing on Senate Bills (SBs) 1601 and 1603 which seek to amend the 9-month-old Republic Act (RA) 11709, or An Act Strengthening Professionalism in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“There were people who were very qualified. But because of their age, they were deprived and retired. The affected officers were deprived, and the organization was also deprived to have a qualified officer,” the Defense department chief said.

“Under the law, a member of the AFP has to retire at the age of 56, and the promotion process is very slow due to the existing ‘fixed term,'” he added.

Galvez stressed that Republic Act No. 11709 has to be amended to address the “grumbling” within the military organization.

“Instead of a ‘fixed term,’ Congress has to pass legislation that makes the tenure of the officials of AFP as “maximum term,” he said.

Galvez said he had talked to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.about the issue before the President flew to Switzerland.

He said they expect to normalize everything before the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Galvez’s statement comes a day after former Defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, in an exclusive interview with The Manila Times, said Galvez’s appointment and that of Eduardo Ano as National Security Adviser may have silenced the grumbling in the military establishment, but Marcos must look beyond issues of leadership to stabilize the situation.

Galvez is a retired Philippine Army general while Ano was former AFP chief of staff.

He said the President’s decision to appoint Galvez and Año averted a possible security crisis.A growing restlessness has spread particularly among former high-ranking military officials because members of some Philippine Military Academy (PMA) batches have been overlooked for promotion, Gonzales said.

The issues concerning national security involve more than just the military, Gonzales said. “When you look at the overall security cluster of the President, that would involve the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, the DILG (Interior and Local Government), Defense.”It is for this reason that Gonzales suggested that the President review the efforts of past administrations to preserve the traditions, integrity, and professionalism of the military.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. assured AFP officials and the Philippine National Police (PNP) that he will continue to work hand-in-hand with them, as both organizations are critical in nation-building.

“A strong national defense is indispensable in a peaceful, stable and successful nation. Strength is found in unity,” Revilla said during the hybrid hearing.

Revilla also expressed hope that the Committee will help him pass both Senate Bills (SB) 1100 (Establishing the Philippine Air Force Academy) and SB 1608 (Free Legal Assistance to any Officer or Enlisted Personnel of the AFP and the PNP), two of his proposed bills designed to strengthen and increase the capabilities of all law enforcement and uniformed personnel in the country.

“In making them stronger, we fortify our nation’s strongholds, and we ensure harmony and balance within our walls,” Revilla added.

“With the help of our resource persons, the esteemed members of this body and our dear colleagues, we shall ensure that this legislation leads to the professionalization, effective operations and fulfillment of the mandate of our Armed Forces,” Estrada said.

Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said he supports the proposals to amend RA 11709 also known as Strengthening the Professionalism in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as well as those seeking to establish the Philippine Air Force Academy (PAFA).

Go said the AFP is the lifeblood of the country’s defense and security and therefore should be given legislative and moral support at all times. “We must strive to keep up with the potentials and commendations from our military and uniformed personnel to revisit policies that will remain responsive to the needs of the military,” Go said.

He said he filed a bill seeking to provide free legal assistance to officers of the AFP and the Philippine National Police because they are the frontliners against criminals, particularly against drug syndicates and terrorists.