Galvez fears ‘stagnation, demoralization’ in AFP due to fixed term law

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. has raised concerns on the implementation of a new law which gives senior military officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) a fixed tour-of-duty, saying some of its provisions could pose a problem that may lead to stagnation in the promotion system of the officers and demoralization of troops.

(L-R) Department of National Defense (DND) Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, Gen. Andres Centino shake hands after leading a command conference at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Jan. 12, 2023. (Photo: Martin Sadongdong/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Galvez said in a press briefing on Thursday, Jan. 12, that the implementation of Republic Act 11709 “is very untimely” and the new legislation needs to be tweaked.

The law – which was enacted by former president Rodrigo Duterte on July 1, 2022 – sets a three-year term for the AFP chief of staff, vice chief of staff, and deputy chief of staff; commanders of the major services such as the commanding generals of Philippine Army and Philippine Air Force, and flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy.

It also extends to three years the tour of duty of commanders of unified commands and the inspector general “unless sooner terminated by the President.”

“The intention of the law, when we were in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is really for the retirement of the Chief of Staff and also the major service to break the revolving door policy. But in the implementation of the law, they included the area commanders,” said Galvez, who is a former AFP chief of staff.

The area commanders refer to the heads of the AFP’s unified commands: Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM), Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), Visayas Command (VISCOM), Western Command (WESCOM), Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM), and Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM).

The area commanders often hold a rank of lieutenant general or vice admiral (three star).

“If the area commander is given a three-year term, there will be stagnation. The organization of the Armed Forces is very dynamic. If there is stagnation in the promotion cycle in the armed forces, there is demoralization,” Galvez explained.

But for AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Andres Centino, he described these issues as “birth pains” as he urged the concerned stakeholders to give the law a chance. He believes the law is crafted by the legislators “for the good of the Armed Forces.”

“In implementing this new law, there are birth pains and questions as to how it should be implemented,” he said.

Centino said the AFP already submitted recommendations to the DND to craft the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 11709 so that issues surrounding it can be clarified and resolved.

“Bagong batas pa ito (This is still a. new law). Perhaps we could give it a try. Siguro mayroon lang a little provisions or points that need to be clarified na hindi masyadong klaro (Maybe there are little provisions or points that need to be clarified because they are not clear). Perhaps that has to be improved,” he said.

Even Centino admitted that he does not knew if he will serve for a full three-year term since it was not mentioned to him by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. when the Chief Executive appointed the retiring general last week. Centino’s retirement is slated on Feb. 4.

“But overall, I think I would suppose that the law was really done to improve how we select, promote, or attrite our officers and enlisted personnel. Maganda naman itong batas (This is really a good law) perhaps there are just questions could be part of the initial processes. That happen when laws are passed,” Centino said.