Solon cites gains of longer tour of duty for AFP chief of staff

THE proposed three-year tour of duty for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff would help shore up the military’s overall readiness against potential foreign aggression, amid Manila’s protracted and bitter dispute with Beijing over maritime claims.

“The longer tour of duty for the AFP’s chief operational officer would be a big advantage in terms of steady preparedness, considering the persistent threat of a possible flashpoint in the West Philippine Sea,” Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said.

“We are convinced that a 36-month term would allow greater stability and constancy in the execution of plans, including the AFP’s modernization program,” Pimentel said.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently named his eight AFP chief of staff in just four years, implying a turnover every seven months.

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay will assume the AFP’s top post on Monday, a day before his predecessor, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 years old.

Gapay himself is expected to serve as AFP chief of staff for only seven months. He is due to retire on February 4, 2021.

Pimentel is author of a bill that provides a 36-month term for the country’s highest-ranking military officer.

Under the bill, when the AFP chief of staff reaches 56 years old before completing the three-year term, his or her statutory forced retirement may be deferred by the President.

“Our bill affirms the President’s absolute power – as commander-in-chief of all armed forces – to remove the chief of staff any time before the end of 36 months for loss of trust and confidence,” Pimentel said.

The 1987 Constitution does not specify a minimum or fixed tour of duty for the AFP chief of staff, other than it “shall not exceed three years,” except when extended by the President in times of war or other
national emergency.

The AFP chief of staff has operational control over all armed service branches – the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Marine Corps.

The President selects the chief of staff from among the most senior military officers with the ranks of major general/rear admiral (two stars) to lieutenant general/vice admiral (three stars).

The chief of staff is the most senior Filipino soldier and holds the rank of four-star general or admiral.