MANILA, Philippines – Citing possible conflict with the 1987 Constitution, President Benigno Aquino III has vetoed a bill that would have helped stop the revolving-door policy introduced under the term of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Aquino said that the bill – which provides a fixed term of 3 years for the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff – runs counter to Article 16, Sec.5 of the 1987 Constitution.
The said provision states that “Laws on retirement of military officers shall not allow extension of their service.”
Aquino explained that the bill allows the deferment of the retirement of the AFP chief, army, air force and navy commanders for the sake of meeting the 3-year fixed term requirement.
The mandatory retirement age is 56. He said that if the bill is passed, a possible scenario could be: an appointed chief of staff or commander who only has 2 years before reaching 56 would get another year in service, because a fixed term mandates that he stays in the post for 3 years.
“So ang paniwala ko, kasi merong provision doon sa bill na nagsasabi kung hindi pa nakumpleto ‘yung three years, umabot na ‘yung retirement, eh ide-defer ‘yung retirement talagang makumpleto ‘yung term. So paniwala ko parang may violation or nilalagay natin sarili natin sa sitwasyon na potentially may violation ng constitution na bawal ‘yung extension,” Aquino told reporters.
He failed to say this could simply apply to the chief of staff who is serving the remaining years of his term when the bill is passed, as a transition phase. The commander in chief can then name a future chief of staff whose term would fit 3 years.The bicameral conference committee approved the proposed measure in October 2011, which consolidated House Bill No. 6 and Senate Bill 2869.
Prior to this, previous bills have been filed in Congress stipulating a fixed term for the AFP chief of staff. Aquino’s partymate in Liberal Party, then Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, introduced House Bill 219 in the 14th Congress, which sets the term of the AFP head at 3 years.
In a previous interview with Newsbreak, Biazon said that the loose term of the AFP chief of staff deprives him of a real chance to implement any programs. “The tour of duty alone would eat up his time,” he said.
He believes that 3 years in the position would be enough for an AFP head to establish continuity of programs and, more importantly, to prevent the position from being given away as a token for political payback.
Critics say that under Mrs Arroyo’s revolving-door policy, the AFP chief of staff’s appointment became the President’s thank-you card to the generals.
The former President appointed 10 military chiefs in 9 years.
Could Aquino be far behind?
He has already appointed 3 AFP chiefs in less than 2 years of his administration.
Gen. Ricardo David Jr., who was appointed in July 2010, was replaced by Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. in March 2011. Oban served for 9 months; Northern Luzon commander Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa later took over his post in December 2011. – Rappler.com