House approved bill fixing the term of AFP chief

Armed Forces of the PhilippinesImage via WikipediaThe House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill fixing the term of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to three years.

Rep. Rodolfo Biazon (Lone District, Muntinlupa City), Chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, said the measure seeks to shield the selection process for the position from undue political and personal considerations by ensuring that merit and fitness prevail.

Biazon, principal author of the bill, said the AFP chief will be granted a security of tenure that is free from patronage to ensure continuity of programs and good performance. 

"The person at the helm of the AFP should enjoy a secure term that would allow him or her adequate time to plan, test and execute matters to best achieve a desired end," said Biazon, a former AFP chief of staff.

Under the bill, the AFP chief of staff shall have a fixed term of office of three years, which shall commence on the date of appointment by the President, regardless of the date of confirmation by the Commission of Appointments (CA). 

The bill provides, however, that the chief of staff of the AFP could be removed by the President in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief for loss of confidence at any time before the end of the 3-year term. 

"It is more imperative in the case of a key government position such as the AFP chief of staff whose security of tenure, though limited by the Constitution to three years, is prejudiced by a compulsory retirement law," according to Biazon. 

"Such situation oftentimes limits the President's choice to fill in vacancies in the AFP to senior officers whose dates of retirement draw near, giving the impression that the President’s action is politically driven," Biazon added. 

Biazon said it is only proper that a person chosen to serve in such capacity be the best qualified and, not necessarily among the most senior, and should be able to enjoy a period of service that will allow him to implement programs and policies and deliver the objectives of the institution. The bill provides that the President shall select from among the officers in the grades of Major General, Rear Admiral to Lieutenant General, Vice Admiral who, in his judgment, is best qualified to be chief of staff. 

Furthermore, no officer shall be appointed chief of staff if the said officer has less than two years remaining in the active service. No extension of term shall be allowed, except in cases of war or national emergencies as declared by Congress.