Zubiri: Senate to prioritize bill limiting top AFP officers’ fixed three-year term

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday, January 11 said the Upper House is determined to pass a bill limiting the coverage of the three-year fixed term in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the first quarter of 2023.

Interviewed at the ‘’Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum,’’ Zubiri said the Senate is hell-bent on amending the law passed in the last Congress.

The move to amend the law came at the heels of alleged grumblings among AFP officials following the appointment by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” MRcos Jr. of Andres Centino, a four-star general, as the Chief of Staff, replacing Lt. General Bartolome Bacarro.

But former Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, former chairman of the Senate national defense committee, today ssid that he does not see ‘’the wisdom or logic in amending the new law which has not been tested yet.’’

Zubiri said he has already talked to Senator Jose ‘’Jinggoy’’ Ejercito Estrada — who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation — and they have already set up a technical working group (TWG) to study measures amending Republic Act 11709.

"I think yung amendment na 'yan ay makakatulong sa stability sa military establishments, mawawala na po 'yung tampo ng junior officers," Zubiri said, amid rumors of unrest among AFP personnel.

Estrada, earlier, said the Senate panel would tackle next week the House bill limiting the coverage of the three-year fixed term to four high-ranking military officials. He said he was asked by the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) a week before Congress adjourned its session for the Christmas season to pass the bill in the upper chamber before the end of 2022.

Marcos has already certified House Bill 6517, its counterpart bill, as urgent.

RA 11709, which grants three-year fixed term for key AFP officials, including the chief of staff, was signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte months before he stepped down from office.

Marcos said the bill would further enhance the policies and initiatives towards maintaining a responsive and professional AFP personnel.

The measure seeks to limit the fixed tour of duty of three consecutive years, unless sooner terminated by the President, to only the following: Armed Forces chief of staff, Commanding general of the Philippine Army, Commanding general of the Air Force, and Flag-officer-in-command of the Philippine Navy.

On the other hand, the commanding generals of the Army, Air Force, and the Navy chief would not be eligible for any position unless promoted to chief of staff.

The bill also seeks to exclude from the coverage of three-year tenure the vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, unified command commanders, and inspector general.