OFFICE OF SENATOR JINGGOY EJERCITO ESTRADA
SPONSORSHIP SPEECH Senate Bill No. 1849 under Committee Report No. 23
An Act Amending Sections 2, 6, 10, 11 and 15 of Republic Act No. 11709 otherwise known as “An Act Strengthening Professionalism and Promoting the Continuity of Policies and Modernization Initiatives in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, by Prescribing Fixed Terms for Key Officers Thereof, Increasing the Mandatory Retirement Age of Generals/Flag Officers, Providing for a More Effective Attrition System, and Providing Funds Therefor”
7 February 2023
Mr. President, my distinguished colleagues of this august body, as your Chairperson of the Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, it is my distinct honor to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1849 under Committee Report No. 23 or An Act Amending Sections 2, 6, 10, 11 and 15 of Republic Act No. 11709 otherwise known as “An Act Strengthening Professionalism and Promoting the Continuity of Policies and Modernization Initiatives in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, by Prescribing Fixed Terms for Key Officers Thereof, Increasing the Mandatory Retirement Age of Generals/Flag Officers, Providing for a More Effective Attrition System, and Providing Funds Therefor”.
The Committee Report is a consolidation of Senate Bill 1601 authored by this representation and Senate Bill 1603 filed by our Honorable Senate President. Your Committee also took into consideration House Bill 6517 referred to the Committee on 23 January 2023.
Mr. President, Section 3, Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that “[t]he Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.”
Further, Section 5(3), Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution states that professionalism in the armed forces shall be a prime concern of the State.
Towards this end, several laws were passed to continually enhance the professionalism of our armed forces. The latest of which is Republic Act No. 11709, signed into law on April 13, 2022 and took effect on July 1, 2022.
The enactment of RA11709 was intended to obviate the revolving door accommodation on promotions and to allow the AFP leadership a longer period to institutionalize sound policies and implement reforms that will redound to the improvement of the AFP by prescribing fixed terms for key officers and by increasing the mandatory retirement age for generals and/or flag officers.
While this representation agrees with the intent and purpose for the passage of RA 11709, the unintended consequences in implementing the said law are too far-reaching. It has caused bottleneck in the promotions of officers, and is expected to cause unnecessary and unwanted attrition within the ranks of the AFP.
Upang mailarawan ng mas malinaw ang magiging epekto ng RA 11709, may isinagawang actuarial modelling o simulation. Ito po ang mga datos na lumabas sa nasabing pag-aaral.
Sa ilalim ng dating umiiral na batas o Republic Act No. 8186, sa loob ng limang taon nasa 3 lamang po ang bilang ng 1-star general natin na napipilitang magretiro dahil hindi na ma-promote. Ngunit sa ilalim ngayon ng RA 11709, 93 (ulitin ko po 93) na ang magiging bilang ng mga 1-star general na mapipilitang mag-retiro sa susunod na limang taon. Ang attrition ng ating mga 1-star general sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang RA11709 ay 31 times higher kumpara sa dati.
Ang mga 2-star generals naman natin, 6 times higher ang magiging attrition rate. Mula sa dating 5, inaasahang nasa 32 na ang mapipipilitang magretiro dahil sa attrition sa susunod na 5 taon. Sa 3-star generals naman ay 3 times higher ang attrition rate, mula sa dating 3 sa loob ng 5 taon ay magiging 9. Ang ating mga Colonels, 2 times higher, mula 68 ay magiging 134.
Pero hindi pa po ito ang pinakamalaking dagok na dala ng RA11709.
Tinatayang nasa 15% rin ng ating enlisted personnel ang maapektuhan ng unnecessary attrition na bunsod ng RA 11709. Sa kasalukuyan, 82% of AFP o nasa higit 135,000 ng ating kasundaluhan ay binubuo ng magigiting na enlisted personnel. Inaasahang hindi bababa sa dalawampung-libo (20,000) ng ating mga enlisted personnel ang mapipilitang umalis sa serbisyo sa mga susunod na taon dala ng kanilang forced attrition na nakasaad sa RA11709.
Ito po ay ilan lamang sa mga dahilan ng so-called “grumblings” sa hanay ng ating Sandatahang Lakas. The concerns of the brave men and women in the AFP are very much valid and understandable given the perceived uncertainty of their military careers na halos buong buhay nilang pinagtrabahuan.
Although unintended, Republic Act No. 11709 has caused uneasiness, demotivation, and adversely affected the morale of our troops.
Ginoong Pangulo, batay po sa iba’t ibang mga survey, laging ang AFP po ang pinaka-mataas at nangunguna sa mga approval rating, satisfaction rating at trust rating. Malinaw po na mahusay at maayos nilang ginagampanan ang kanilang tungkulin bilang tagapangalaga ng sambayanang Pilipino at ng Pilipinas.
Ganito po ba ang dapat nating isukli sa kanilang mga sakripisyo para sa ating bansa?
Mr. President, we do recognize the hard work and diligence that were poured out by our esteemed colleagues from the previous Congress, and many of whom are still part of the present Congress, in crafting RA 11709.
I, myself, am convinced that RA 11709 is a good law, which sought to institute meaningful reforms and finally resolve the revolving door policy that has hounded the AFP for so many years and severely hampered the long-term planning, stability and strategic direction of the defense establishment.
Nonetheless, it is incumbent upon me to listen and respond to the grievances of members of the armed forces. Hindi natin pwedeng isantabi na lamang at ipagwalang-bahala ang kanilang mga hinaing at punto hinggil sa epekto ng pagpapatupad ng batas na ito.
This Senate Bill therefore seeks to amend five (5) provisions of RA11709, which will definitely address and put the so-called “grumblings” to rest.
Foremost is for matters concerning our enlisted personnel be removed from the coverage of RA11709.
We will revert to the previous system where the promotion, separation, and maximum allowable tenure of our enlisted personnel will be governed by the issuances of the Department of National Defense and the AFP. This will afford the DND and AFP flexibility in adjusting the policies concerning our enlisted personnel depending on their developing and expanding needs.
The Senate Bill also reintroduces a one-year period of prohibition for promotions, which was effectively removed by RA11709, and reinstitutes the previous tenure-in-grades of Colonels/Commander and Brigadier Generals/Commodores
Officers may only be eligible for promotion to the rank of Brigadier General/Commodore or higher if he/she has at least one (1) year remaining of active service before compulsory retirement. This will address a major issue in the implementation of RA11709 by preventing “photo finish” promotions of generals/flag officers despite having a few months or days left before retiring.
Reinstituting the one-year prohibition was a result of the consultative meeting between this representation and the junior officers of the AFP conducted last February 3, 2023.
The reimposition of the one-year prohibition will mean that a Colonel with a present tenure-in-grade of eight (8) years has only seven (7) years within which to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. A Brigadier General with a present tenure-in-grade of three (3) years only has two (2) years within which to be promoted as Major General.
Given the limited number of officers in the aforementioned positions, a period of seven (7) years for Colonels and two (2) years Brigadier Generals within which to compete for promotions is quite short and will lead to their unnecessary attrition.
As earlier stated, the attrition rate for Colonels under RA11709 will be doubled and for Brigadier Generals, it will be 31 times higher. This computation was arrived at without taking into consideration a period of promotion ban. The attrition rate will even be higher should we impose the proposed one-year prohibition.
Thus, the reversion to their previous tenure-in-grades under Republic Act No. 8186, ten (10) years for Colonels and five (5) years for Brigadier Generals, is in order.
This will allow them a fair and equitable opportunity to compete and to be promoted to the next rank.
And for the sake of clarity and for the record, Mr. President, your Committee is not against attrition. We 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.
Limiting the tour of duty to five (5) tenured key officers and allowing other key officers lateral movement to key positions is also being sought.
The AFP Chief of Staff will still be accorded a maximum tour of duty of three (3) years.
The PMA Superintendent will still have a maximum tour of duty of four (4) years.
The tour of duty of Major Service Commanders, however, will be shortened from three (3) years to two (2) years. We are still fostering the continuity of policies for the tenured key positions but at the same time affording the subsequent commissioned classes a fair and equitable opportunity to compete for promotions to these positions.
All other key officers, namely: Vice Chief of Staff, The Deputy Chief of Staff, Unified Command Commanders and The 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.
This will grant our Major Generals and Lieutenant Generals a fair and equitable opportunity to compete for promotions to key positions, which was indiscriminately and unfairly deprived of them by RA11709,
Moreover, the AFP Board of Generals will not be bound by restrictions, particularly the prohibition on lateral movement, in determining the best qualified candidates to these key positions.
The introduction of a graduated age of compulsory retirement for generals/flag officers is likewise being espoused by this Senate Bill.
This is a balancing act as it allows the AFP to maximize the services of our senior generals but at the same time affords the younger colonels/generals the opportunity for career progression.
Under this Senate Bill, the compulsory age of retirement for 1-star generals is 57. For 2-star generals, it will be 58. For 3-star generals, it will be 59 BUT if the officer is occupying a tenured key position, the maximum tour of duty will take precedence.
It is worth noting, however, that among the recommendations gathered by this representation during the consultative meeting with AFP junior officers is to merely impose 57 (not graduated) as the uniform age of compulsory retirement for generals/flag officers. The determination of 57 was arrived at given that there are incumbent generals/flag officers who have surpassed the age of 56.
Finally, the Senate Bill seeks to reintroduce the percentages on officer grade distribution provided under Republic Act No. 9188 but the basis will be the AFP Table of Organization
Under RA 11709, the Secretary of National Defense is mandated to ensure the decrease in the number of our generals/flag officers from 190 to 164 before April 13, 2023. This representation respectfully submits that this significant decrease is not in keeping with the demand of the times given the continued modernization of our armed forces.
The AFP needs to be dynamic and highly responsive to the complex, volatile, ambiguous and evolving local, regional and global security landscapes. It will be more prudent, therefore, to reinstitute the percentages provided under RA9188, particularly on the number of generals/flag officers, and to give the DND and the AFP leeway in determining their force structure by basing the said percentages on the AFP Table of Organization.
While we are granting the DND and the AFP more flexibility to respond to the current and future security threats, the grant is not without sufficient safeguards. Percentages are in place and allocations for additional positions are still to be justified with the Department of Budget and Management.
Mr. President, as to the application of the amendments we are proposing, this representation respectfully submits that the tour of duty, compulsory age of retirement and maximum tenure-in-grade shall be made to apply to those appointed or promoted on 1 July 2022 onwards or during the effectivity of RA11709.
Doing so will immediately address the issues and concerns, including the bottleneck in promotions, following the implementation of RA11709. Otherwise, our troops will continue to suffer as the effects of these proposed amendments will only be realized two (2) or (3) years down the line.
As to the issue of impairing the vested rights of those appointed or promoted during the effectivity of RA11709, the Supreme Court, in a long line of cases, recognized police power, which is verily lodged in the Legislature, as a valid limitation to the exercise of vested rights. The exercise of police power requires the concurrence of a lawful subject and a lawful method, both of which are readily apparent in the issue at hand.
Mr. President, the passage of the Senate Bill 1849 under Committee Report 23 will address the gaps, issues and unintended consequences brought about by the implementation of RA11709. It will also result in a more dynamic and highly responsive AFP capable of adapting to the demands of the present time. Most importantly, it will definitely usher a level of improved morale within and among the ranks of our armed forces. Ensuring a level playing field for career advancement is the least we can do for our soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines who continue to lay their lives on the line protecting the Filipino people and defending the Philippines.
In closing, may I just say and emphasize that this piece of legislation remains consistent with the spirit and intention of RA 11709 that is anchored on meritocracy and professionalization, while providing the organization with the necessary room for flexibility, ensuring stability, and improving the morale in our Armed Forces.
Thank you, Mr. President.