NEW AFP OFFICIALS. Senators greet the newly promoted officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The Commission on Appointments confirmed the ad interim appointments of 49 generals and colonels on Wednesday (May 17, 2023). (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has signed Republic Act (RA) 11939 amending RA 11709 which prescribes fixed terms for the key officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

RA 11939, signed by Marcos on May 17, particularly amends Sections 2, 6, 9, 10, and 15 of RA 11709, in a bid to strengthen professionalism and promote the continuity of policies and modernization initiatives in the AFP.

Under RA 11939, the AFP chief of staff will have a maximum tour of duty for three consecutive years, while the service commanders of the Philippine Army (PA), Philippine Air Force (PAF), Philippine Navy (PN), and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) will have a two-year term of office "unless sooner terminated by the President."

The new law removes the vice chief of staff, the deputy chief of staff, unified command commanders, and the inspector general from the roster of officials with a fixed term of three years.

The PA, PAF, PN, and PMA chiefs are ineligible for any position in the AFP unless promoted to the position of chief of staff.

To be eligible for appointment or promotion to the grade of brigadier general, commodore or higher rank, the military officers must have at least a year remaining active service before compulsory retirement.

RA 11939 states that the AFP chief of staff and heads of PA, PAF, PN, and PMA will compulsory retire upon completion of a tour of duty or upon relief by the President.

The second lieutenant or ensign, lieutenant general or vice general and any enlisted personnel will reach the mandatory retirement at the age of 57 or upon accumulation of 30 years of satisfactory active duty.

Those commissioned under Presidential Decree 1908 and appointed in the Corps of Professors will retire upon reaching the age of 60 years old or upon accumulation of 20 years of satisfactory active duty.

RA 11939 also provides that the maximum tenure of military officers with the rank of brigadier general or commodore will increase from three to five years, while those who are holding the rank of colonel or captain will now have a maximum tenure of 10 years from the current eight years.

"The President may lengthen the tenure-in-grade of officers in the permanent grades of captain, major, and lieutenant colonel, or their equivalent, up to two promotional cycles when necessary, to maintain the desirable officer rank structure and uphold the progressive professional development of the officer corps," the law read.

The new law also modifies the officer grade distribution, adjusting the number of officers for general or flag officers to 1.25 percent from the current one percent, and for officers in the grades of first lieutenant junior grade and second lieutenant or ensign to 42.75 percent from the current 43 percent.

RA 11939 applies to the officers, enlisted personnel, and those promoted under RA 11709 and other pertinent laws.

The Department of National Defense is instructed to formulate the rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of RA 11939 within 30 days from its effectivity.

RA 11939 also repeals Sections 3 and 11 of RA 11709.

The new law takes effect 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation. 

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP) on Thursday said it welcomes Marcos' signing of the amendments to Republic Act 11939.

"The AFP welcomes President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's approval of RA 11939, which provides the much-needed amendments to RA 11709," AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said in a statement.

He also stressed that these amendments will further professionalize the military.

"We believe that the changes will further strengthen professionalism in the military and ensure the continuity of programs while maintaining the AFP's dynamic and progressive promotion system," he said. (With a report from Priam F. Nepomuceno/PNA)