“The AFP’s revolving- door policy is now gone.”
The Palace recently released R.A. No. 11709, the new military retirement law. This law is supposed to do away with the revolving-door policy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines wherein Chiefs of Staffs are retired after serving a few months. It was normal to see a Chief of Staff serving for only three or four months which in a span of six years, will total to about five or six Chiefs of Staff or even more.
Henceforth, whoever is appointed as Chief of Staff of the AFP will hold that position for three years unless sooner terminated by the appointing authority who the President.
We will therefore be seeing fewer appointments to that position. Theoretically, a President can only appoint two Chiefs of Staff during his term of six years. Although the original intention of the law was to do away with the problem of too many Chiefs of Staff serving only for a few months, R.A. 11709 included other senior positions that were also given fixed terms of three years.
In a nutshell, the features of the new law are the following: All commissioned officers who are not promoted to general officer rank and reach the grade of Colonel or its equivalent in the Navy must retire upon reaching the age of 56 as do all enlisted personnel. All those promoted to General Officer ranks will retire at the age of 59. If one is designated to a position that is required by this law to be occupied for three years, then that officer’s service will be extended for another three years. For example, if an officer is promoted to the grade of Brigadier General at the age of fifty-two which is about the average age for promotion to General rank during these times, that officer can serve until the age of 59. When he reaches 58 and gets appointed to be a service commander, that officer can serve an additional two years until he reaches 61 years. Why only two years? Because he still has one year left. If he reaches 61 and happens to be appointed as the AFP Chief of Staff just before he retires, another three years will be added until he turns 64 to retire. An officer therefore can be a General Officer for a total of 12 years, which is long by Philippine standards.
Currently, Generals gets to serve between three and five years. Although this law will indeed put an end to the revolving-door policy, it might also create some unintended problems by fixing the terms of several positions instead of relying on the natural attrition process to determine promotions to senior positions. Extension by promotion should have been considered because it is the better way to do it instead of a blanket extension upon being promoted to Brigadier General. The new law could result in too many General officers which will make the AFP too top heavy with Generals.
Why the sponsors of the law and the study group saw it fit to include several positions in addition to the Chief of Staff, is also another matter. The law basically cemented the unified command concept that created many positions for Lt Generals. Our Armed Forces is not really that large yet, we have more Lt Generals in proportion to our personnel strength than many other countries.
The revolving door policy has always been a problem when appointing the AFP Chief of Staff and the Chief of the PNP. Perhaps Congress should have included the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard so that three birds would have been shot with only one stone, so to speak. Now, Congress will have to work on a new retirement law for the two services.
The PNP recently copied the practice in the AFP of creating another level of command above the regional level and promoted the officers in-charge of these units to PLt. Generals. The result is that there are now more of this rank in the PNP than the three that it used to have. If a new PNP retirement law is passed and basically maintains this new structure, then the PNP will also become too heavy with too many General officers.
Our reform-minded people from both the AFP and PNP together with Congress should aspire for in establishing a military organization that is lean, mean, young and an efficient fighting force instead of a top-heavy organization. We need younger combat commanders in the Brigade up levels.
Fortunately, the law provides for a review mechanism in case R.A. 11709 does not work as intended. What is important for now is that the AFP revolving door policy is now gone which will ensure the continuity of programs.