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Senate to limit fixed terms to 4 military officers

The Senate aims to pass a bill limiting the coverage of the three-year fixed terms in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to only four key officials within the first quarter of this year, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Wednesday.

Under the proposed measure, only the AFP chief of staff, the commanding generals of the Philippine Army and Philippine Air Force, and the Flag-officer-in-command of the Philippine Navy will be given fixed terms, unless sooner terminated by the President.

The bill would exclude from the coverage of the three-year tenure the vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, unified command commanders, and inspector general.

“We are now hell-bent on amending the law,” Zubiri said of Republic Act (RA) 11709 during a media forum. “We are looking at passing it this first quarter of this year.”

“I think the amendment will help with the stability in the military establishment and will remove the sulking of the junior officers,” Zubiri said, amid rumors of unrest among AFP personnel

Zubiri said he already discussed this with Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation, and already set up a technical working group to study measures amending RA 11709.

Meanwhile, former Senator Panfilo Lacson yesterday said he doesn’t see the wisdom or logic to amend the new law, RA 11709, “which has not been tested yet.”

Lacson, also a former national police chief, noted that the final version of the law is “generally the same as the original legislative proposal submitted by the AFP and Department of National Defense (DND), with some amendments of course.”

Furthermore, he said the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11709 crafted by former DND officials led by former officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. does not conform with the rules and provisions of the law.

“Having said that, Congress has the power to amend any law so, it is up to them,” said the defeated presidential candidate in the 2022 elections.

In a phone interview the other day, Estrada said the Senate panel will tackle on Jan. 17 the House bill limiting the coverage of the three-year fixed term to four high-ranking military officials.

Estrada said he was asked by the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office a week before Congress adjourned for the Christmas season to pass the bill in the upper chamber before the end of 2022.

According to the senator, he rejected the request, saying he still needs to call a hearing on the matter.

The amendments, Estrada said, might help because, in this RA, the low-ranking officials and colonels will remain in their posts once this is implemented.

“They will not be promoted so the House amended this law. So, they wanted me to maybe just adopt the bill of the House,” the senator related.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has already certified House Bill 6517, which seeks to amend RA 11709, as urgent.

The law, which grants a three-year fixed term for key AFP officials including the Chief of Staff, was signed by former President Rodrigo Duterte months before he stepped down from office.

Mr. Marcos said the bill will further enhance the policies and initiatives toward maintaining responsive and professional AFP personnel.

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