Marcos signs law amending fixed terms for top military posts 

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday approved Congressional amendments to a 2022 law that set a fixed term for key military positions. 

Mr. Marcos signed Republic Act (RA) No. 11939 on May 17, just four months after reports of rumblings in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) leadership, which were considered as “unintended consequences” of RA No. 11709, a law on professionalizing and modernizing the military. 

Under the new law, the AFP chief-of-staff would only have a maximum tour of duty of three consecutive years unless sooner terminated by the president.

Those who shall serve a maximum of two consecutive years include the service commanders of the Philippine Army (PA), Philippine Air Force (PAF), and Philippine Military Academy (PMA), all of whom will not be eligible for any position in the AFP unless promoted to the chief of staff post.

They must have at least one year remaining of active service before the compulsory retirement for them to be eligible for appointment or promotion to the grade of brigadier general, commodore or higher rank. 

Under the new law, the AFP chief of staff and heads of the army, navy, airforce, and academy shall compulsory retire upon completion of a tour of duty or upon relief by the President.

It said the second lieutenant or ensign, lieutenant general or vice general and any enlisted personnel shall retire at the age of 57 or upon accumulation of 30 years of satisfactory active duty. 

Those commissioned under the Presidential Decree 1908 and appointed in the Corps of Professors shall retire upon reaching the age of 60 or upon completion of 20 years of satisfactory active duty.  

The law increased to five years from three the maximum tenure of military officers with the rank of brigadier general or commodore, and to 10 years from eight years the maximum tenure of colonel or captain rank.  

Reports of destabilization plots circulated in January after an unexpected change of command at the military with the reappointment of General Andres C. Centino as chief of staff five months after Mr. Marcos appointed Bartolome Vicente O. Bacarro to the post.

The instability pushed Defense officer-in-charge Carlito G. Galvez, who assumed the post left by Jose Faustino, Jr. amid the rumblings, to lobby for amendments to RA No. 11709, which was signed by former President Rodrigo R. Duterte in April last year.  

Congress passed the law in March.

Mr. Galvez, who at the time said the rumblingsin the AFP were actually more of a tampo (hurt feelings) by the troops over the law more than anything else,said short-term appointments for top generals which were enabled by the Duterte law had caused a disturbance among junior military officers.

“The President may lengthen the tenure-in-grade of officers in the permanent grades of captain, major, and lieutenant colonel, or their equivalent, up to two promotional cycles when necessary, to maintain the desirable officer rank structure and uphold the progressive professional development of the officer corps,” according to the new law.  

It also modified the officer grade distribution in line with the AFP modernization program, adjusting the percentage for general or flag officers to 1.25% and for first lieutenant or lieutenant junior grade and second lieutenant and ensign to 42.75%.  

The law tasked the Defense agency to craft the rules and regulations needed to implement its provisions within 30 days from its effectivity, which will happen five days after its publication in the Official Gazette. Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza