Senate passes bill limiting fixed terms in AFP to chief of staff, 4 others

(GMA NEWS) The Senate on Monday approved on the third and final reading the bill limiting the coverage of the three-year fixed term in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).advertisement

Senate Bill 1849, which seeks to amend Republic Act 11709, garnered 17 votes, zero negative votes, and zero abstentions.

Under SB 1849, the fixed terms in the AFP will be limited to five tenured key officers:

  • AFP chief of staff: a maximum tour of duty of three years;
  • Philippine Military Academy superintendent: a maximum tour of duty of two years; and
  • commanding generals of the Philippine Army and Philippine Air Force, and flag officer of the Philippine Navy: a tour of duty of two years.

“I hope that this measure will usher improved morale for our soldiers and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said Sen. Jinggoy Estrada following the approval on the floor of the bill contained in Committee Report No. 23. 

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,” he added.

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 fixed three-year terms.

Under the measure, officers must have at least one year of active service before compulsory retirement for them to be eligible for appointment or promotion to the grade of brigadier general or commodore, or higher.

The bill also sets the retirement age at 56 years old except for the chief of staff, the heads of the three major services, and PMA superintendent whose retirement will be upon the completion of their tour of duty or upon relief by the President.

Earlier, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa warned that the graduated age of compulsory retirement of military officers, which was proposed in the committee report of the Senate national defense panel, might again cause “rumblings” within the AFP.

SB 1849 intends to amend Republic Act 11709 which grants three-year fixed terms for key AFP officials, including the chief of staff.

The law 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.

But RA 11709 had “unintended consequences” which resulted in “rumblings” within the military ranks, according to Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez. Jr.

Last December, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. certified House Bill 6517, which seeks to amend RA 11709, as urgent.

This allowed the Senate to pass the bill on the second and third reading on the same day.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III objected to the passage of the bill in the Senate on the same day, arguing that 1987 Constitution certifications of the bill as urgent should address a public emergency or calamity.

“I cannot believe that rumblings from the Armed Forces of the Philippines can be treated as a public calamity or emergency especially coming from a professional organization…Therefore, I move that we follow regular procedure and in accordance with our rules that the readings be on separate days,” Pimentel said.

But his motion was lost to the vote of the majority.

HB 6517 had already been passed by the House of Representatives on third and final reading. —NB, GMA Integrated News