February 7, 2023

In the three years that we were together in Congress, then Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. never showed any arrogance. For a man of his stature and wealth, he was always unassuming, friendly, and humble.
He probably humiliated himself when he brought back the former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff to replace his choice.
Republic Act 11709 (An Act strengthening professionalism and promoting the continuity of policies and modernization initiatives in the AFP by prescribing fixed terms for key officers. Increasing the mandatory retirement age of generals/flag officers, providing for a more effective attrition system, and providing funds therefore) gives the chief of staff a three-year term unless sooner terminated by the President or extended in times of war or other national emergencies as may be declared by Congress (Section 5).
Simply, it enables the commander-in-chief of the AFP to exercise his discretion.
RA 11709 ended the so-called “revolving door” policy of former President Rodrigo Duterte and others when each and every general due for retirement got to be chief of staff, even if undeserved.
The law also extended the retirement age for generals and flag officers while removing the ban on designation and promotion of officers to the rank of brigadier general/commodore or higher unless that officer has at least a year remaining to serve prior to compulsory retirement.
The law also prevented lateral movement in key positions.
Signed by Duterte on April 13, 2022, the law intends to strengthen the merit system in the AFP and ensure continuity of programs and policies.
One of its important provisions is the creation of fixed terms for its key officers. Officers who practically won benefitted with having fixed terms of three years, regardless of age and unless their appointment is “terminated sooner by the President” are the chief of staff, vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, commanding generals of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, inspector general, chiefs of unified commands, and superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy who was given a bonus with a fixed term of four years, regardless of age.
Understandably, junior officers grumbled, sparking rumors of unrest and Marites-like-doomsday scenarios.
The Senate had a knee-jerk-reaction hoping an amendment will help with the stability in the military and remove sulking junior officers.
It is now fast-tracking to pass a law limiting the coverage of the three-year fixed terms in the AFP to only four key officials.
Under the proposed measure, only the chief of staff, the commanding generals of the Army and Air Force, and the flag-officer-in-command of the Navy will be given fixed terms, unless sooner terminated by the President.
After the turnover to the “dating-bago” chief of staff, there were the usual rumblings, speculations, threats, and pure gossip but then again and again, I say no one can really question the prerogative of a President in his exercise of his powers to appoint and to remove officials, military, civilian or otherwise.
As my ancestors from the municipality of Avila in Spain say, “No se puede hacer política defendiendo al mismo tiempo el blanco y el negro o intentado contentar a todo el mundo vendiendo nuestros ideales y faltando a nuestros” – One cannot do politics by defending black and white at the same time or trying to please everyone by selling our ideals and failing to meet our (his) commitment.
Sigh.

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