‘Sir, yes sir!’

‘Sir, yes sir!’

DND Sec. Delfin Lorenzana

Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte is leaving a good legacy for the country’s military after signing into law a measure prescribing a fixed three-year term for the Armed Forces chief and other top military officials.

This does away with the so-called revolving door policy widely seen as a bar to the implementation of military programs.

In the eyes of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, with Republic Act 11709 officially a law, only the best officers in the Armed Forces can assume the highest posts in the military.

“The principal objective of this law is to allow general officers sufficient time, i.e., three years time-in-grade, to do their jobs. If they are not promoted to the next higher grade, they are retired. This ensures that only the best officers ascend the ladder of leadership. This also puts an end to the revolving door system in the AFP leadership that resulted from the retirement law passed in 1979,” Lorenzana said in a statement.

The law, known as “An Act Strengthening Professionalism and Promoting the Continuity of Policies and Modernization Initiatives in the Armed Forces if the Philippines, by Prescribing Fixed Terms For Key Officers Thereof, Increasing the Mandatory Retirement Age of Generals/Flag Officers, Providing for a More Effective Attrition System, And Promoting Funds, Therefore,” was signed on April 13, more than two months before the 77-year-old commander-in-chief returns to civilian life.

Senate observers said the new law will cap the key legacies of outgoing Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon to the military and defense establishment, having advocated and espoused his law during the legislative process.

Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, pushed last September Senate Bill 2376, which with House Bill 10521 forms the basis of what President Duterte signed into law as Republic Act 11709.

With this law, the leaders of the AFP “will have the opportunity to implement their legacy programs instead of staying in office too briefly,” said Lacson, who, upon graduating from the Philippine Military Academy in 1971 served in the Philippine Constabulary – now the Philippine National Police — until 1991.

Under the new law, the AFP chief-of-staff, vice chief-of-staff, deputy chief-of-staff, heads of the major services (Army, Navy, and Air Force), unified command commanders, and inspectors general will have a three-year term of office “unless sooner terminated by the President.”

The President may extend the AFP chief-of-staff’s tour of duty in times of war or other national emergencies declared by Congress.

The law also gives the Philippine Military Academy superintendent a tour of duty of four years, “unless sooner terminated by higher authority.”

At the same time, the law provides for the compulsory retirement of military personnel at 56 or 30 years’ satisfactory active duty, whichever is later — for those in the grades of second lieutenant/ensign (O-1) to colonel/captain (O-6).

For those in the grades of brigadier general,/commodore (O-7) to lieutenant general, and vice-admiral (O-9), the retirement age will be 59 or the maximum tenure-in-grade, whichever comes earlier.

Officers or enlisted personnel may avail themselves of optional retirement upon accumulation of at least 20 years of satisfactory active duty.

The law also provides that officers and enlisted personnel shall be retired one rank higher from the last rank held, provided that retirement benefits shall be based on the permanent grade last held, though this will not apply to those still in active duty prior to the effectivity of the law; and provided that the said retirees will form part of the Reserve Force.

Republic Act 11709 also limits the number of general officers to 0.01 percent of the AFP’s total strength and will reduce the number of its general officers from the present 196 to 153, which is believed the optimal number of generals to efficiently and competently lead the AFP.

Lorenzana said: “Lastly, we thank President Duterte for signing it into law RA 11709, which caps his vision and programs — higher pay, more troops, more brand new equipment, and improved health services — for a better and professional AFP that he implemented during his term.”.

Lacson himself noted the revolving-door policy had always been a disservice to the mandates of the military leadership entrusted with the security and defense of the country

Lacson was the principal sponsor and a co-author of the bill, defending its provisions on the floor and ensuring its eventual passage.

Most importantly, he said, this would ensure the implementation of merit-based promotion and attrition systems that will assure the AFP of a continuous pool of qualified and effective leaders.

Senator Gordon, one of the primary authors and principal sponsors of the bill, made an emphasis on the continuity and stability in AFP leadership for the defense and security of the country.

The compulsory retirement age shall also be hiked from 56 to 59 years old, or an accumulation of 30 years in active service, whichever comes earlier for personnel ranked between second lieutenant and colonel.

For those assigned to a sensitive or key position, retirement shall come into effect upon completion of a fixed three-year tour of duty unless they go up the ladder within the AFP Table of Organization.

With the signing of the landmark measure, Gordon hopes that incoming Chiefs of Staff are fixated on instituting key programs ahead of their appointments.

“As defenders of our land, we desire to have military leaders that have a vision for the improvement of our armed forces; changes need to be made because the status quo is clearly not working,” said Gordon.

“I envision a more vibrant and successful operation of the AFP, as they could now enjoy more continuity, stability, and legacy of the country’s military,” he continued.

(ai/mtvn)

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