Philippine military

Duterte signs law granting military chiefs a fixed 3-year term

Pia Ranada
Duterte signs law granting military chiefs a fixed 3-year term

PMA GRADUATION. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presents a diploma to one of the 214 graduating cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) 'Bagsak Diwa' Class of 2022 during the commencement exercises at the Fajardo Grandstand, Borromeo Field in Fort Gen. Gregorio H. del Pilar, Baguio City on May 15, 2022.

Malacañang photo

(1ST UPDATE) The fixed three-year term of the AFP chief of staff ends the 'revolving door' policy employed by President Rodrigo Duterte and others before him
Duterte signs law granting military chiefs a fixed 3-year term

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a measure that ensures the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff will serve for three years, ending a “revolving door” policy that gave rise to military chiefs serving for only a few months before mandatory retirement.

Republic Act No. 11709, signed by Duterte on April 13, intends to strengthen the merit system of the AFP and ensure continuity of programs and policies. One of its most important provisions is the creation of fixed terms for its key officers.

The following officers will now have fixed terms of three years, regardless of age and unless their appointment is “terminated sooner by the President”:

  • AFP chief of staff
  • vice chief of staff
  • deputy chief of staff
  • commanding generals of the Army, Navy, and Air Force
  • inspector general
  • chiefs of unified commands

The superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy, meanwhile, has been given a fixed term of four years, regardless of age.

The law prohibits the extension of the tour of duty of the officers listed above. But the tour of duty of the Chief of Staff can be extended only “in times of war or other national emergency declared by Congress.”

President Duterte was known for appointing military chiefs who would serve only for a few months, which his own defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, said was a bad practice that led to the military to “lose its direction.”

The current AFP chief, Lieutenant General Andres Centino, will serve until February 2023, much longer than his most recent predecessors appointed by Duterte.

General Jose Faustino Jr., whom Centino replaced, served for only four months (July to November 2021). Before him there was Cirilito Sobejana who was chief of staff for six months (January to July 2021). He replaced Gilbert Gapay who served for five months (August 2020 to January 2021). 

The revolving door in the military heirarchy under Duterte has led to this administration having 11 chiefs of staff in his six-year term, rivaling Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who had the same number of military chiefs, but in a span of nine years.

Mandatory retirement age

The new measure also adjusted the compulsory retirement age of military personnel.

  • Grades of Second Lieutenant/Ensign (O-1) to Colonel/Captain (O-6) – upon reaching 56 years of age or 30 years in active duty, whichever is later
  • Grades of Brigadier General/Commodore (O-7) to Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral (O-9) – upon reaching 59 years of age or the maximum tenure-in-grade as defined in this law, whichever comes earlier
  • Key officers with fixed term of 3 years – retire after completing fixed tour of duty, unless promoted to Chief of Staff or relieved from post and not designated to, or occupying, any position in the AFP Table of Organizations
  • Commissioned under Presidential Decree No. 1908 and appointed in the Corps of Professors – upong reaching 60 years of age or 20 years of active duty, whichever comes later

In a statement, the AFP welcomed Duterte’s action and said the newly signed law will bring stability in the military: “The AFP is confident that the newly-signed law will bring stability in the military organization as we continue to fulfill our mandate as protectors of the people and the state.” 

The military added that the new policy would also make the AFP more efficient. 

“This shall make the AFP a more efficient and effective organization and will contribute to the realization of our vision of a more credible Armed Forces which is a source of national pride.” – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.