Longer, fixed term for AFP chief sought

Published August 2, 2020, 12:29 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

A longer, fixed tenure for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff would be better for the country, said House Deputy Speaker Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel Sunday.

House Deputy Speaker Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel

Pimentel said his proposed three-year tour of duty for the AFP chief of staff would help shore up the military’s overall readiness against potential foreign aggression, amid Manila’s protracted and bitter dispute with Beijing over maritime claims.

“The longer tour of duty for the AFP’s chief operational officer would be a big advantage in terms of steady preparedness, considering the persistent threat of a possible flashpoint in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“We are convinced that a 36-month term would allow greater stability and constancy in the execution of plans, including the AFP’s modernization program,” Pimentel noted.

President Duterte recently named Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay as the next AFP chief of staff. Gapay takes over Monday from Gen. Felimon Santos Jr.

Gapay is Duterte’s eight AFP chief of staff in his four years in office, implying a turnover every seven months.

Santos will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on Tuesday. Gapay himself is expected to serve as AFP head honcho for only seven months. He is due to retire on Feb. 4, 2021.

Pimentel is the author of House Bill (HB) no.4050, which provides for a fixed 36-month term for the country’s highest-ranking military officer.

Under the bill, when the AFP chief of staff reaches 56 before completing the three-year term, his or her statutory forced retirement may be deferred by the President.

“Our bill affirms the President’s absolute power – as commander-in-chief of all armed forces – to remove the chief of staff any time before the end of 36 months for loss of trust and confidence,” Pimentel said.

The 1987 Constitution does not specify a minimum or fixed tour of duty for the AFP chief of staff, other than it “shall not exceed three years,” except when extended by the President in times of war or other national emergency.

The AFP chief of staff — the most senior Filipino soldier with the rank of four-star general or admiral — has operational control over all armed service branches – the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force, and the Philippine Marine Corps.