Bill amending law on AFP officers’ tour of duty gets Senate nod

THE Senate on Monday unanimously approved on second and third reading the measure that will address the “unintended consequences” of a new law concerning the term of office of the Chief of Staff and other key officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and uphold at the same time the intent of Republic Act 11709 to fend off the revolving door policy on promotions of the military top brass. 

“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. Andito po ang inyong Senado para alalayan kayo sa bawat laban na inyong kakaharapin. 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,” said Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada following the approval on the floor of Senate Bill 1849 contained in Committee Report No. 23. 

In the approved Senate version of the bill, the measure reverted to the retirement age of 56 except for the Chief of Staff and the commanding generals of the three major services and the superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) who will retire upon completion of their tour of duty, unless sooner terminated by the President. 

From the fixed term of duty for 14 key officers under RA 11709, the approved measure limits to five key officers the maximum tour of duty – three years for the AFP Chief of Staff; two years for the commanding general of major services and the PMA superintendent, Estrada, who is the principal author and sponsor of the SB 1849 or An Act Amending RA 11709 otherwise known as “An Act Strengthening Professionalism and Promoting the Continuity of Policies and Modernization Initiatives of the AFP 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”, said. 

The vice chief of staff, the deputy chief of staff, unified command commanders, and the inspector general will be removed from the list of officials with a fixed term of three years.

To be eligible for appointment or promotion to the grade of brigadier general or commodore or higher, the officer must have at least one year remaining active service before compulsory retirement, the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security explained. 

The rationale for reinstating the one-year prohibition is aimed at addressing 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, he further emphasized.

“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,” said Estrada. 

“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,” Estrada concluded.