House of Representatives

A day after filing, House bill limiting AFP officers with fixed terms hurdles 2nd reading

Sofia Tomacruz
A day after filing, House bill limiting AFP officers with fixed terms hurdles 2nd reading

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. The House plenary hall.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

House Bill 6482 – which seeks to amend a law signed by then-president Rodrigo Duterte only in April – limits the fixed 3-year term to the military chief and the Army, Navy, and Air Force chiefs

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on second reading a bill seeking to amend a months-old law which mandated fixed tours of duty for key officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Voting via viva voce, House Bill No. 6482 was approved at the House plenary floor on second reading on Tuesday, December 6, without any objections or amendments.

The measure – co-authored by House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Iloilo 5th District Representative Raul Tupas, Negros Oriental 6th District Representative Mercedes Alvarez, Zamboanga 1st District Represenative Divina Grace Yu, and Patrol Representative Jorge Busos – was filed a day earlier on Monday, December 5, and comes less than eight months after then-president Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11709 into law on April 13.

RA 11709 was among the last bills Duterte had signed into law, which ended  a “revolving door” policy that gave rise to military chiefs serving for only a few months before mandatory retirement. Duterte himself had appointed 11 military chiefsduring his six-year term, rivaling Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who had the same number of AFP chiefs, but in a span of nine years.

Lawmakers who co-authored the bill said that since the passage of RA 11709 in April, officers and enlisted personnel of the AFP raised “a significant number of proposals and recommendations” on the law “to make it more responsive to the needs, peculiar situation, organizational culture and human resource development” of the AFP.

Among changes HB 6482 seeks to implement is limiting the fixed three-year term to just four officers – the AFP chief, and as well as commanding generals of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Under RA 11709, the three-year fixed term rule also covered the vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, unified command commanders, and the inspector general. If passed, HB 6482 seeks to instead allow “lateral movement” for officers holding these posts.

Tupas, who defended the proposed measure during the plenary, said lateral movements would allow officers holding such posts to assume new roles within these ranks if there are vacancies.

The bill also seeks to restore a rule that except for the chief of staff, no officer with less than six months of active service before retirement can be appointed to key posts, or promoted to the rank of brigadier general or commodore, or higher.

The measure also seeks to allow the defense secretary to determine, in consultation with the AFP, the number of officers “in each grade and in each major, technical or administrative service and implement the gradual increase or decrease in the number of officers in each officer rank based on the mission requirement, capabilities, scope of responsibility, technical nature of the position and task.”

It also seeks to lengthen the tenure of troops holding the positions of captain, major, and lieutenant colonel, as well as increase the maximum tenure-in-grade for officers with the rank of colonel.

In addition, the proposed measure sets the compulsory age of retirement of high ranking officers to the following:

  • Officers with the rank of brigadier general or commodore: 57
  • Officers with the rank of major general or rear admiral: 58
  • Officers with the rank of lieutenant general or vice admiral: 59

Tupas said the bill was the result of “exhaustive consultations” with soldiers over the last two weeks, along with the leadership of the AFP and Department of National Defense.

Pressed by Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas to explain how soldiers holding lower ranks would be affected by proposed amendments, Tupas said changes would fall in line with the intent of RA 17709 to strengthen professionalism, meritocracy, sustain modernization efforts of the defense establishment.

“This proposal is supported by the overwhelming majority of AFP and DND,” Tupas said. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.