Grumblings in the AFP officer corps
When the pay increases of soldiers and policemen were implemented early this year doubling their take-home financial package, there was universal joy and satisfaction among the security forces. Finally, Commander in Chief President Duterte had the political will and determination to push through with such an important program in the face of slow-moving fiscal and economic managers with different agendas of their own.
In terms of national service, the Duterte presidency more than any administration after the martial law years, has relied on retired military personnel for duty at the highest levels of government. As of last month, seven major Cabinet positions are occupied by individuals from the military sector, all graduates of the Philippine Military Academy.
One would surmise that all is well in the Armed Forces given the generous benefits now enjoyed by the men in uniform and the high level of confidence placed in them by the Commander in Chief.
But today there are whispers, murmurings and signs of discontent in the military organization. It is not about salaries and allowances but over promotions particularly pertaining to key designations. Keep in mind that in the military service no one comes out openly or speaks his mind publicly when there is controversy or discontent regarding any issue. Unlike in
civilian agencies where all kinds of alliances and coalitions abound, pursuing their respective interests in a very public manner, the military is bound by a culture of silence. If one moves around and keeps his sensors on the ground, one gets a better feel of the actual situation.
These are some of the thoughts of senior AFP officers.
On Army leadership — The recently designated commanding general of the Philippine Army (CG, PA), Lt. Gen. Macairog
Alberto, Class of 1986, was promoted from the position of chief, Intelligence Service AFP (ISAFP), to CG, PA, bypassing several division commanders in the process. The normal steps up the Army ladder to the top starts with battalion followed by brigade, then, division command, and finally, a shot at Army leadership or head of an AFP area command like Westmincom, one of two Mindanao area commands. In the case of Gen. Eduardo Año, a former chief, ISAFP, who became CG, PA, and later, AFP chief of staff, he was first made a division commander before rising to the Army’s top post. General Año distinguished himself as chief, ISAFP, with the capture of Benito Tiamzon, chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and his wife Wilma, the party secretary general. Some quarters claim that the post of chief, ISAFP, is equivalent to a division command. A number of senior officers dispute this contention.
On the AFP chief of staff position — Next week, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Class of 1985, will be reaching mandatory retirement age. The most senior three-star general in the AFP today is
Lt. Gen. Salvador Mison, an Air Force man. As I noted in an earlier column, General Mison has been holding the position of AFP vice chief of staff for the last two years, backstopping three AFP chiefs: Gen. Eduardo Año, Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero and now, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. One could say that under the revolving door situation presently existing in the AFP chief of staff position, it is actually General Mison who has been holding the organization together as the AFP chief of staff comes and goes.
Given the present conditions, it appears that the AFP chief of staff post is just a short-term, four-star holding appointment prior to retirement and possibly, duty in the civil sector of government. It is not a position that envisions an occupant providing the AFP with stability of command, needed organizational review and reforms, new directions, and vision for the future. That being the case, General Mison, the vice chief of staff, is entitled to the same respect and consideration as any Army candidate for the post. Note that when an officer is promoted to star rank (general), his branch of service is no longer attached to his name. He now belongs and is responsible to the AFP as a whole. In terms of seniority, General Mison towers above all in the service. In terms of professional competence and integrity, there can be no doubt he possesses these leadership qualities considering that he has ably provided continuity during transitions from one AFP chief to another.
We all recognize and respect the prerogative of the commander in chief to appoint any person of his choice to these key positions. But in the exercise of this great power, a sense of fairness, justice, and good faith should also be part of the decision process.
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