With Republic Act 11709 officially a law, only the best officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) can assume the highest posts in the military, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.
“The principal objective of this law is to allow general officers sufficient time, i.e., three years time-in-grade, to do their jobs. If they are not promoted to the next higher grade, they are retired,” he said in a statement.
“This ensures that only the best officers ascend the ladder of leadership. This also puts an end to the revolving door system in the AFP leadership that resulted from the retirement law passed in 1979,” Lorenzana added.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law last April 13.
RA 11709 is “An Act Strengthening Professionalism and Promoting the Continuity of Policies and Modernization Initiatives in the Armed Forces if the Philippines, 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 Promoting Funds Therefore.”
“We would like to thank the members of Congress, especially Sen. Dick (Richard) Gordon, Sen. Ping (Panfilo) Lacson, and Cong. Boboy Tupaz for advocating and espousing this law throughout the legislative process,” Lorenzana said.
Senate observers said the new law will cap the key legacies of Lacson to the military and defense establishment.
Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, pushed last September Senate Bill 2376, which with House Bill 10521 forms the basis of what President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law as Republic Act 11709.
“Finally, we will see an end to the revolving-door policy in the AFP.
The leaders of our AFP will have the opportunity to implement their legacy programs instead of staying in office too briefly,” said Lacson, who upon graduating from the Philippine Military Academy in 1971 served in the Philippine Constabulary—now the Philippine National Police—until 1991.
Under the new law, the AFP chief-of-staff, vice chief-of-staff, deputy chief-of-staff, heads of the major services (Army, Navy, and Air Force), unified command commanders, and inspector general will have a three-year term of office “unless sooner terminated by the President.”
The President may extend the AFP chief-of-staff’s tour of duty in times of war or other national emergency declared by Congress.
The law also gives the Philippine Military Academy superintendent a tour of duty of four years, “unless sooner terminated by higher authority.”
Meanwhile, the law also provides for the compulsory retirement of military personnel at 56 or 30 years’ satisfactory active duty, whichever is later —for those in the grades of second lieutenant/ensign (O-1) to colonel/captain (O-6).
For those in the grades of brigadier general/commodore (O-7) to lieutenant general/vice admiral (O-9), the retirement age will be 59 or the maximum tenure-in-grade, whichever comes earlier.
Officers or enlisted personnel may avail of optional retirement upon accumulation of at least 20 years satisfactory active duty.
The law also provides that officers and enlisted personnel shall be retired one rank higher from the last rank held, provided that retirement benefits shall be based on the permanent grade last held, though this will not apply to those still in active duty prior to the effectivity of the law; and provided that the said retirees will form part of the Reserve Force.
Republic Act 11709 also limits the number of general officers to 0.01 percent of the AFP’s total strength and will reduce the number of its general officers from the present 196 to 153, which is believed the optimal number of generals to lead the AFP efficiently and competently.
“Lastly, we thank President Duterte for signing it into law RA 11709, which caps his vision and programs—higher pay, more troops, more brand new equipment, and improved health services—for a better and professional AFP that he implemented during his term,” Lorenzana said.
Lacson noted the revolving-door policy had always been a disservice to the mandates of the military leadership entrusted with the security and defense of the country
Lacson was the principal sponsor and a co-author of the bill, defending its provisions on the floor and ensuring its eventual passage.
Most importantly, he said, this would ensure the implementation of merit-based promotion and attrition systems that will assure the AFP of a continuous pool of qualified and effective leaders.
Senator Gordon, one of the primary authors and principal sponsors of the bill, made an emphasis on the continuity and stability in AFP leadership for the defense and security of the country.
“We welcome the signing of SB 2376, because it eliminates the ‘revolving door’ policy in the appointment of key AFP officials, which was done not through merit but through patronage politics or palakasan,” said Gordon.
“As defenders of our land, we desire to have military leaders that have vision for the improvement of our armed forces; changes need to be made because the status quo is clearly not working,” said Gordon.
“I envision a more vibrant and successful operation of the AFP, as they could now enjoy more continuity, stability, and legacy of the country’s military,” he continued.
Furthermore, the law will now prohibit a retired or resigned military officer from being appointed to the Defense department within a year of their exit from the AFP.
During the initial hearing of the proposed law, Gordon pointed out that the average term of the AFP Chiefs of Staff lasted for just about a year, way short of Southeast Asian neighbors.