Thursday, June 9, 2011

Senators bring to plenary bill fixing AFP chief’s term to 3 years

By Christian V. Esguerra, Friday, June 10, 2011

Senators belonging to the committee on national defense have unanimously endorsed a bill seeking to slam shut the “revolving door” policy that allowed military chiefs of staff to serve even for just a few months before retiring.

The report prepared by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, committee chairman, fixes the term of a chief of staff to three years, regardless whether the official reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 before the term expires.

Senate Bill No. 2869, which consolidated three related measures, was submitted for plenary deliberations in time for the congressional break sine die, which began on Thursday.

The so-called revolving door policy has long been criticized given that it barely allowed for any meaningful program to be implemented by a chief of staff who served for just a few months.

Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed a total of 11 chiefs of staff during her term from 2001 to 2010.

“(The bill) grants security of tenure to ensure continuity of programs that (are) free from patronage and geared only toward good performance,” Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said in the explanatory note for her previous version of the bill.

Santiago’s brother Benjamin Defensor himself benefited from the revolving door policy when he served for a little over two months as chief of staff of then president Arroyo. His was the shortest term in the Armed Forces so far, from Sept. 10 to Nov. 28, 2002.

The consolidated bill also sets a minimum term of two years for heads of the major services – the Philippine Army, Navy, and Air Force. The fixed term will be “without prejudice” to an official’s appointment as chief of staff.

The only restriction is that an officer cannot be appointed as a major service commander if he or she has less than two years to go before retirement.

Only the chief of staff will enjoy the possibility of a term extension but only “in cases of war or national emergencies as Congress may declare.”

SB No. 2869 defers the “statutory compulsory retirement of the chief of staff” until the three-year term is completed.

But the official may be “removed by the President as commander in chief for loss of confidence at any time before the end of the term of three years.”

Inquirer News

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