Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Extend The Term of the New AFP Chief of Staff

I congratulate Lt. Gen. Victor Ibrado for being appointed successor to AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano. He is an accomplished officer and a gentleman who will not have a hard time earning the respect and obedience of the Armed Forces, just as Gen. Yano did when he assumed the top post of the AFP.

The announcement of Lt. Gen. Ibrado’s appointment as CSAFP several weeks before the retirement of the incumbent AFP Chief will do well to avoid the usual militics (military politics) that attend to such command turnovers. The jockeying for the chance to be appointed SCAFP is prevented, and a smooth transition is ensured.

Following that concern about the issues that usually precede the change in the AFP leadership, now that President Arroyo has announced her choice, it might also be worthy for her to consider at this early stage to already extend the term of Lt. Gen. Ibrado, allowing him to serve until the end of the term of the president.

The reason for the suggestion is that Lt. Gen. Ibrado will retire on March 2010, or right in the middle of the national and local election season. That situation brings to fore some concerns:

1. It would be best if the AFP has stable leadership during the entire process of the elections, from the beginning of the campaign to the end of the canvassing. It is expected that the elections will be more “exciting” since it is a presidential election. Therefore, stability in the AFP is not only crucial but essential, and it would be good to have someone singularly accountable for the AFP during the entire election period.
2. The change in AFP leadership in the middle of the campaign of the national and local elections will result in politics and militics simultaneously taking center stage.
3. The appointment of a new AFP Chief of Staff during the final few months of the current administration is unfair to the next President who may be forced to accept a Chief of Staff who is not his choice or be forced to replace him ahead of his retirement in which case it would be to the disadvantage of the newly appointed officer.

An extension of Lt. Gen. Ibrado’s service until the end of President Arroyo’s term will only be for three months, a tolerable extension given the concerns about a mid-election leadership transition in the AFP. It may even be considered a courtesy by President Arroyo to the next president who will then have a free hand in appointing a new AFP Chief of Staff at the beginning of his term.

The extension will not be unprecedented, since General Hermogenes Esperon was given a chance to serve beyond his retirement. If a controversial officer like Gen. Esperon was given an extension, why not a fine officer like Lt. Gen. Ibrado?

In relation to this, I would like to call on the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass the pending bills by Senator Rodolfo Biazon and this representation proposing the establishment of a fixed three-year term for the AFP Chief of Staff.

If passed into law, it will prevent the “revolving door practice” where Chiefs of Staff serve only for several months, making generals pre-occupied with who will get the prized appointment. It will also give more stability to the AFP leadership and provide a longer tour duty for the AFP Chief to manage the military’s multi-year programs, particularly those of the Modernization Program.

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