DEFENSE Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. vowed on Monday to "take care of the Department of National Defense (DND) personnel and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials."
"Let me assure you that here at the DND, we take good care of our people. Because when we do this, our people will do the same and take good care of our organization. My promise is I will make the DND and AFP happy," Galvez said during the flag-raising ceremony, his first since taking over as Defense chief.
In an interview following the ceremony, he pointed out that one of the major issues that must have caused the "rumblings" in the AFP are the delayed promotions and designations.
Galvez said the cause of the delay is the election ban on promotion and the "transition command of the Marcos administration."
"We have seen that there are pending designations and also promotions and we are very happy that before going to Davos, the President signed almost all the papers," the DND chief pointed out. "He signed 39 positions in one day and more or less key officers, including six major generals and the remaining 17 general officers. That was unprecedented for us."
"Now we see that the AFP is in high morale," he added.
Another issue that needs to be resolved immediately is the amendment of Republic Act (RA) 11709, also known as the "Act Strengthening Professionalism in the AFP," particularly on giving fixed terms to more or less 14 key positions.
"That's what we saw. Key AFP officials felt restrained. It is as if their hands are clamped to place the best among the qualified officials in certain areas," he said.
Galvez expressed his gratitude to the Senate for supporting their recommendation to replace the fixed term with an "extended tenure of service" for officers.
"We will remove the term 'fixed term'. Instead, we will use the term 'extended tenure of service', so there is no such thing already as a fixed term. It will not be absolute, we will have flexible career management for our key officers," he added.
Under RA 11709, the AFP chief of staff, vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, heads of the major services (Army, Navy and Air Force), unified command commanders, and inspector general will have a three-year term of office "unless sooner terminated by the President."
The President may also extend the AFP chief of staff's tour of duty in times of war or other national emergencies declared by Congress.
During the January 17 Senate hearing, the DND presented proposed amendments to RA 11709.
These include the AFP chief having a maximum term of three years, while service commanders like the Army, Navy and Air Force will have two years and the Philippine Military Academy superintendent will have four years.
Meanwhile, the AFP vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, unified command commanders, and inspector general can be appointed to a higher post if they still have a year left in active service.
Also included are proposals that no military officials can be promoted to brigadier general or commodore if they have less than six months left in the service.
"The DND's proposed amendments to RA 11709 aim to further enhance the professionalism and efficiency of the AFP. The issues surrounding the law are being threshed out collaboratively between the DND and the AFP," Galvez said.
He also said the DND shall continue to pursue policies that will further enhance the welfare, morale, professionalism, efficiency and effectiveness of the AFP.
Galvez cited the need for the DND to remain relevant at all times.
"We are all aware that the DND and the AFP are among the most trusted organizations in the government. As such, we must work hard to reciprocate this trust. We need to keep our organization relevant all the time," he added.
However, Galvez said that being relevant does not mean that the DND needs to be in the headlines all the time.
"This means that the people need to feel our presence and relevance. This is in line with our mandate to preserve the territorial integrity of our nation while protecting and serving the Filipino people in the best way possible," he added.