A BILL proposing to prescribe a 36-month tour of duty for the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff—vetoed by former President Benigno Aquino III four years ago—has been revived at the House of Representatives under the Duterte administration.
In filing House Bill 3402, Surigao del Norte Rep. Johnny Pimentel, member of the House committee on national defense and security, stressed “the quick turnover of AFP chiefs of staff has become counterproductive—even somewhat disruptive.”
“Over the last 30 years, the AFP has had 28 chiefs of staff who each served an average of only 12 months. In the case of our last 10 chiefs of staff, each actually served only an average of seven months,” Pimentel said.
The AFP chief of staff’s counterpart in the United States—the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff—enjoys a fixed term of two years, Pimentel pointed out.
“If we are to reinforce the military as our protector and defender of the national territory, we should give its chief operating officer a stable stint to carry out programs and projects with some degree of constancy,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel’s HB 3402 sets a three-year term for the chief of staff. When he or she reaches the compulsory military retirement age of 56 before completing the fixed term, his or her statutory forced retirement would be deferred.
The bill affirms the President’s absolute power, as commander-in-chief of all armed forces, to remove the chief of staff “at will”—or at any time before the end of 36 months.
Since the 1986 People Power Revolution, the AFP has had only two chiefs of staff—Generals Renato de Villa and Lisandro Abadia—who were able to serve the maximum three years allowed by the 1987 Constitution.
The chief of staff who had the shortest stint was General Nestor Ochoa, who held the post in an acting capacity for just 10 days.
The chief of staff has operational control over all armed service branches—the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Marine Corps.
The President selects the chief of staff from among the most senior military officers with the ranks of major general/rear admiral (two stars) to lieutenant general/vice admiral (three stars).
The chief of staff is the only Filipino soldier who holds the rank of four-star general or admiral.