Newly-appointed Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Tuesday, January 17 confirmed there were indeed “rumblings” within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) but clarified that is was due to the "unintended consequences" brought about by the enactment of the new law that set fixed terms for high-ranking military officers.
Galvez made the remark after he was asked by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, if the pending Senate bills that seek to amend Republic Act No. 11709, which prescribes a fixed three-year term for senior military officers has anything to do with the reported unrest within the military.
The Department of National Defense (DND) chief, however, stressed amending the law, which was passed during the Duterte administration, would help address the grievances especially among the junior officers, particularly those who belong to Class 90, 91, 92, 93, to 94.
“Kasi nagkaka-edad na sila (because they are getting old), in our case, nag-brigade commander ako (I became brigade commander at) 49 (years old), sila nag (they are) 51, 52 na, hindi pa sila nagbi-brigade (they still haven’t been promoted to brigadier general). So medyo apektado yung kanilang (that is affecting their) career,” Galvez explained to senators during the hearing of the Senate panel on bills seeking to amend RA 11709.
“But I believe...if we will pass this amendment, it will solve the lingering (issues) both short and long term of the law we have passed recently,” he said.
“Though we acknowledge the beauty of RA 11709, the intention of preventing a revolving policy but the intended consequences of prohibiting the junior classes to compete equally medyo yun po ang nagiging epekto (that is what is affecting them),” Galvez further said.
The DND secretary further said that AFP officers are only seeking a “sense of fairness” and for the law to be amended as it arbitrarily discriminates some of them from the competition.
“We have to equalize the playing fields, at the same time, we will not arbitrarily remove the best among the qualified from holding the key positions of 3 stars and 4 stars,” he said.
Returning AFP Chief of Staff General Andres Centino also confirmed that there was a “smooth transition” following the recent shakeup within the AFP leadership.
During the hearing, Galvez presented the DND’s proposal on amending the list of key officers with a maximum tour of duty.
Under the DND proposal, the amended list of tenured key officers would be three years for the AFP Chief of Staff, two years for the commanding generals of the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, and Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy and four years for the Superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
The DND also urged lawmakers to ensure that officers holding the positions of Vice Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Unified Command Commanders and Inspector General, may be appointed to any of the tenured key positions provided that their remaining tenure-in-grade shall be at least one year, unless promoted as Chief of Staff.
According to the agency officials, this will afford a more experienced three-star general the opportunity to assume a tenured key position such as major service commander or as vice chief of staff, as opposed to a provision under RA 11709, where the pool from which the commander of major services shall be selected from is limited to two-star generals.