It is my honor and privilege to sponsor for Senate consideration Senate Bill No. 2869 under Committee Report No. 50 entitled “An Act Prescribing Fixed Terms for the Chief of Staff and the Major Service Commanders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and for Other Purposes.” This bill is filed in substitution of Senate Bill No. 20 filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, and Senate Bill No. 2285 filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
The call for reforms in the military service has always been part of the agenda of any administration and the topic of numerous bills here in Congress. It is undeniable that every country must place a premium on national security, and peace and order. Unfortunately, the road towards effective reforms is being hampered by the frequent change in the leadership of the Armed Forces or what is commonly referred to as the revolving door policy.
Senate Bill No. 2869 aims to give due recognition to the significance of the positions of the AFP Chief of Staff and the major service commanders by guaranteeing the stability and continuity of their service at the helm of the armed forces. Essentially, the objectives of this bill are as follows:
1. To prevent the trivialization of the position of the Chief of Staff and of the major service commanders thereby preserving the integrity of their offices;
2. To provide stability to the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by fixing the duration of the term of corps leadership so as to ensure continuity and consistency in the formulation and implementation of policies and programs; and
3. To prevent the politicization of the above-mentioned positions.
Under this bill, the Chief of Staff shall be given a fixed term of three (3) years. History has taught us that due to the limitations brought by the statute on mandatory retirement, there had been instances in the past when the appointed chief of staff only served for a few months or at most a year before he is forced to retire. Indeed, such a short period of service is not enough for one official to learn the ropes, more so, to effect meaningful changes in the Armed Forces. In fact, during our committee hearing, we learned that the first year of service is usually for purposes of familiarization while the time for reforms begins only during the second or third year in the office.
Mr. President and colleagues in the Senate, the instability created by such a situation only serves to derail the modernization efforts in the military service. And this is precisely the problem sought to be resolved by this proposed measure.
Senate Bill No. 2869 provides that when the officer appointed as Chief of Staff reaches the compulsory retirement age before the end of the three-year term, the statutory compulsory retirement of the chief of staff shall be deferred until the completion of the prescribed term. This is of course, without prejudice to the power of the president as Commander-in-Chief to remove the said officer from office for loss of confidence at any time before the end of the prescribed three-year term.
In the same vein, the positions of the major service commanders also require a modicum of stability and continuity so as to afford these officials sufficient time to craft their program of action as well as oversee its implementation. It is for this reason that this proposed measure grants them a minimum term of two (2) years. However, giving due consideration to the restrictions embodied in our constitution, the bill also provides a limitation on the appointment of these officials such that officers who can be appointed as a major service commander must have at least two (2) years remaining in active service.
With stability and continuity ingrained within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, its core leadership will once again obtain the integrity that their positions duly deserve. More importantly, having an Armed Forces that is characterized not just by bravery and patriotism but also by integrity, stability, and continuity in its leadership, will enable the AFO to fulfill its mandate of protecting the people and in preserving national security.
Given the controversies plaguing the Armed Forces of the Philippines, there is no question that reforms are badly needed in order to restore the AFP to its former glory and honor. Senate Bill No. 2869 is a step towards this direction.
Your honors, this is the third time that a member of this chamber will sponsor this measure for the approval of the body. The bills prescribing a fixed term for the AFP Chief of Staff and the major service commanders had long been debated upon in our halls but for some reason, time ran out on the passage of this measure. It is this representation’s hope that with the support of my fellow senators, time and fate will be on our side so that we can finally see this bill enacted into a law.