What is AFP? A Comprehensive Overview to the Armed Forces of the Philippines

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), established to safeguard the nation’s security, constitute the military forces of the country, organized into three main service branches: the Philippine Army, the Philippine Air Force, and the Philippine Navy (including the Marine Corps). 

These branches operate under the umbrella of the Department of National Defense (DND).

In this article, we’ll explore the history, ranks, salaries, and job hiring within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

 From its founding in 1935 to its vital role in national history, we’ll trace the AFP’s evolution. We’ll also dive into the hierarchical structure, detailing ranks and their significance.

Join us as we uncover the rich history, navigate the ranks, get to know the salaries, and shed light on the path to a fulfilling career in the esteemed Armed Forces of the Philippines. 

Continue reading below for a comprehensive exploration of the AFP’s journey and opportunities.

Job Opportunities:

Explore various job openings in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) across different roles and ranks.

Check the current vacancies listed below or explore additional opportunities within the military service and other government agencies

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Click on the job title to find detailed job descriptions and instructions on how to apply.

Salary Information:

Gain insights into AFP salary grades (See Here). Curious about the financial aspects of joining the AFP? Learn about salaries and benefits to inform your decision-making for the future.

Armed Forces of the Philippines History:

Armed Forces of the Philippines
What is AFP? A Comprehensive Overview to the Armed Forces of the Philippines 3

The President of the Philippines serves as the Commander-in-Chief, responsible for formulating military policy in collaboration with the Department of National Defense—an executive department overseeing the execution of military policy. 

At the helm of the AFP hierarchy, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines holds the highest rank and functions as the overall commander.

Established under the National Defense Act of 1935, with historical roots tracing back to the Philippine Revolutionary Army, the AFP has played a crucial role in the nation’s history.

Engaging in various conflicts, the AFP has addressed rebellion against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), including its affiliated entities—the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF). 

Additionally, the AFP has conducted operations against local Islamic terrorists in Mindanao. Beyond its domestic role, the AFP has contributed to global peacekeeping efforts under the United Nations. Notably, military service in the AFP is presently entirely voluntary.

Pre-Colonial Defense and Spanish Colonial Era:

In the pre-colonial era, the Philippines maintained local militia groups within the barangay system.

These groups, accountable to the datu, not only preserved order in their communities but also functioned as defense forces. 

The introduction of Islam in the Mindanao region mirrored the organizational structure of other sultanates, engaging local warriors in the service of the Sultan and qualified male citizens appointed by him.

During the Spanish colonial period, defense and general order on land were overseen by the Spanish Army, while maritime policing and naval logistics were the responsibilities of the Spanish Navy. 

The Guardia Civil took charge of police duties and maintaining public order. Initially, the army was composed of conquistadors and native auxiliaries, but as the 18th and 19th centuries unfolded, mixed Spanish-Filipino infantry and cavalry units emerged, alongside all-Filipino volunteer battalions.

Uprisings, Philippine Revolution, and American Rule:

In response to local uprisings and the Philippine Revolution in 1896, Filipinos and Spaniards defected to join the Philippine Revolutionary Army. 

The 1898 Treaty of Paris marked the transfer of the Philippines from Spanish to American rule, leading to the establishment of the Philippine Constabulary in 1901.

This force played a crucial role in suppressing revolutionary forces during this transitional period.

The Philippine–American War and Transition to American Rule:

The Philippine–American War officially ended in 1902 with the surrender of General Miguel Malvar.

During the initial period of American rule, defense responsibilities were shouldered by the U.S. Army and Navy. 

This arrangement persisted until the National Defense Act of 1935, which mandated the establishment of an independent defense force specifically for the Philippines.

Creation and the Commonwealth Era:

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was established on December 21, 1935, in line with the National Defense Act of 1935. Retired U.S. General Douglas MacArthur supervised its foundation and training, holding the unique rank of Field Marshal. 

The Army of the Philippines included naval and air assets, with the Philippine Constabulary initially part of the ground forces and later reorganized into a national police force in 1938.

The military administration was divided into ten “military districts” throughout the islands, marking a significant chapter in the evolving history of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Military DistrictAreas Covered
1stNorth Luzon
2ndLingayen and the Central Plain
3rdEast Central Luzon, Bataan, and Zambales
4thSouth Central Luzon, including Manila, Batangas, Palawan, and Mindoro
5thEast and Southeast Luzon and Catanduanes
6thTablas, Panay, and Marinduque
7thNegros
8thBohol and Cebu
9thSamar and Leyte
10thMindanao and Sulu

The table represents the allocation of areas covered by each Military District in the Philippines.

Each row corresponds to a specific Military District, and the “Areas Covered” column describes the geographical regions or provinces falling under the jurisdiction of that particular district. 

This type of organization is common in military planning and administration to ensure effective management and coordination of defense and security operations across different regions of a country.

Expansion and World War II (1940–1945):

MacArthur spearheaded the expansion of the Army of the Philippines in 1940, marked by the revival of the Navy and the establishment of the Philippine Army Air Corps. 

Despite these efforts, the forces were ill-prepared for the Pacific War’s outbreak in December 1941, leading to the Japanese invasion, and they proved unable to repel the occupation.

Post-World War II Independence and Military Reorganization (1946–1947):

 Following Japan’s defeat in World War II, the Philippines achieved independence in 1946, marking its second independence since the 1898 Declaration. 

The pre-war military districts were briefly utilized for military administration until their reorganization into Military Area Commands in 1946. 

A significant milestone in 1947 was the emergence of the modern Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through the elevation of the Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) to the Philippine Air Force.

Military Developments, Conflicts, and International Involvement (1950–1966):

Noteworthy developments unfolded, including the creation of the Philippine Marine Corps in 1950 under the Philippine Navy, inspired by a study of the U.S. Marines by Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay. 

The Philippine military actively participated in the Korean War from 1951 to 1953, deploying AFP battalions, known as the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK), as part of the US-led United Nations Command. 

Simultaneously, the AFP grappled with the Hukbalahap conflict until 1954, ultimately quelling the insurgency.

In 1966, AFP units engaged in international missions, sending a battalion to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War for humanitarian efforts and simultaneously deploying forces to the Spratly Islands. 

A significant step in 1963 was the inclusion of women in the armed forces through the establishment of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps.

Martial Law Under Ferdinand Marcos:

President Ferdinand Marcos aimed to exert significant influence over the Armed Forces from the onset of his presidency in 1965. 

He retained the position of defense secretary for the first thirteen months, establishing a patronage system within the defense establishment.

Upon the declaration of martial law in 1972, Marcos utilized the AFP as his martial law implementor and a crucial support for his regime. 

The military played a role in swiftly arresting and containing Marcos’ political opponents. His hold on power weakened when a considerable portion of the military withdrew support in February 1986.

Marcos oversaw a substantial expansion of the AFP during his presidency, increasing personnel from 57,100 in 1971 to 113,000 in 1976. 

The military budget also rose significantly, from P880 million in 1972 to P4 billion in 1976. He initiated the AFP Self Reliance Defense Posture (SRDP) program, intended for local production of weapons and equipment.

The military, under Marcos, took on various functions beyond national defense, including involvement in economic and social programs. 

A major reshuffle in the armed forces occurred, with the forced retirement of key officers critical of Marcos, replaced by individuals with familial ties to him.

The Marcos administration marked a decline in the AFP’s traditional values of civilian supremacy and professionalism. 

Human rights abuses by the military became widespread, documented by international entities like Amnesty International. 

The period also initiated long-running conflicts such as the Moro conflict and the New People’s Army conflict.

The need for security sector reform was recognized in later administrations, following recommendations from commissions such as the Davide Commission in 1990 and the Feliciano Commission in 2003.

EDSA Revolution

In February 1986, amid widespread belief in electoral fraud during the Philippine presidential election, a period of uncertainty unfolded, marked by a boycott movement and plans for massive civilian protests.

During this tumult, the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, led by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, attempted a military coup against Marcos.

The plot was uncovered,[61] and the involved forces found themselves trapped in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. 

They sought support from Philippine Constabulary chief and AFP vice-chief of staff Lt. General Fidel V. Ramos in the neighboring Camp Crame. Despite Ramos’ defection, the forces remained trapped in the two neighboring camps.

Manila’s Catholic Archbishop, Jaime Sin, took to Radio Veritas, urging people to gather on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue between the two camps to protect the rebel forces.

With civilian groups already planning massive protests related to the election results, a large crowd assembled, preventing Marcos’ forces from attacking camps Aguinaldo and Crame. 

This civilian uprising, known as the People Power Revolution, prompted various units of the AFP to refuse orders to fire on the camps and the civilians protecting them. 

Consequently, Marcos was removed from power.Corazon Aquino was installed as the new president of the Philippines.

Shortly after midnight on February 26, five army trucks under the command of Fidel Ramos arrived at Malacañang Palace to secure it after Ferdinand Marcos had left. 

This event marked the end of Marcos’ reign and placed the palace under the control of the Provisional Government of the Philippines until a new constitution could be enacted a year later, in 1987.

Later 20th Century

During Corazon Aquino’s administration, she faced challenges from military factions loyal to the former dictator and the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, dealing with various coup attempts.

 135  The bloodiest of these attempts occurred in 1989 and was successfully crushed with assistance from the United States.

In response to the 1989 coup attempt, President Aquino established a Fact-Finding Commission led by COMELEC Chairman Hilario Davide Jr. to thoroughly investigate and produce a comprehensive report on the series of coup attempts.

The Davide Commission Report, upon release, proposed a range of short-term and long-term counter-measures. 

Recommendations included the creation of a civilian national police force, a crackdown on military corruption, a performance review of government appointees, reforms in military promotion procedures, a review of election laws for the 1992 presidential elections, and a definitive statement from Aquino regarding her intention to run for re-election in 509–530  This report is recognized as a crucial starting point for security sector reform in the Philippines.

During Aquino’s term, the AFP launched a substantial campaign against the CPP-NPA after a brief hiatus and also targeted the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the southern region.

In 1991, the major services of the AFP were streamlined from four to three. The Philippine Constabulary (PC), an AFP major service responsible for law enforcement and crime prevention, was formally merged with the Integrated National Police. 

This national police force, attached to the PC, transformed into the Philippine National Police (PNP), thereby relinquishing AFP control. 

The civilianization process was enacted through legislation passed by Congress, placing it under the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Organization and Branches:

Department of National Defense Building, Camp Aguinaldo

The 1987 Philippine Constitution positioned the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under the command of a civilian, the President of the Philippines, who serves as its Commander-in-Chief. 

All branches of the AFP fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of National Defense, led by the Secretary of National Defense.

The AFP comprises three major services:

  1. Philippine Army (PA) – Hukbong Katihan ng Pilipinas
  2. Philippine Navy (PN) – Hukbong Dagat ng Pilipinas
  3. Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) – Hukbong Kawal Pandagat ng Pilipinas
  4. Philippine Air Force (PAF) – Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas

These major services are consolidated under the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP), who typically holds the rank of General/Admiral.

The AFP Chief of Staff receives support from:

  • Vice Chief of Staff of the AFP (VCSAFP)
  • Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFP (TDCSAFP)

Both positions usually carry the rank of Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral.

The top three posts in the AFP are complemented by the Secretary Joint Staff (SJSAFP), who acts as the principal executive officer for the AFP Chief of Staff, the Vice Chief of Staff, and The Deputy Chief of Staff.

Each of the three major branches is led by an officer with the following designations:

  • Commanding General of the Philippine Army (CGPA) – Lieutenant General
  • Flag Officer in-Command (FOIC) – Vice Admiral
  • Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force (CGPAF) – Lieutenant General
  • Commander, Unified Commands (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral)

Simultaneously, the Chief of Staff of the AFP receives support from ten officeholders, each holding the rank of Major General/Rear Admiral. 

These individuals serve as members of the Joint Staff Divisions at the General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. 

The Joint Staff Divisions form part of the Joint Staff, which includes the AFP Chief of Staff, the Vice Chief of Staff, and The Deputy Chief of Staff:

  1. Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, J1
  2. Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, J2
  3. Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Organization & Training, J3
  4. Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, J4
  5. Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, J5
  6. Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications, Electronics and Information Systems, J6
  7. Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, J7
  8. Deputy Chief of Staff for Education, Training and Doctrine, J8
  9. Deputy Chief of Staff for Retirees and Reservists Affairs, J9
  10. Deputy Chief of Staff for Financial Management, J10

Special Staff and Division Commanders

The AFP comprises the Special Staff, categorized into two distinct groups. These groups play crucial roles in supporting the AFP Chief in their respective domains:

Administrative Staff:

  1. The Inspector General (TIG) – Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral
  2. The Adjutant General (TAG)
  3. The Judge Advocate General (TJAG)
  4. The Chief, Chaplain Service (TCCS)
  5. The Provost Marshal General (TPMG)
  6. The Chief, Special Services (TCSPS)
  7. The Chief, Historical Activities (TCHA)
  8. The Chief, Doctrines Development (TCDD)

Technical Staff:

  1. The Chief Engineer
  2. The Chief for Ordnance and Chemical Service
  3. The Quartermaster General
  4. The Surgeon General
  5. The Chief Nurse

In addition to the Special Staff, the AFP Chief receives assistance from officeholders commanding division-sized troops, each carrying the rank of Major General/Rear Admiral:

  • Army Division Commanders
  • Naval Command Commanders
  • Air Command Commanders
  • The Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps

AFP Position Title Changes: A Brief History

In a significant move on June 19, 2020, guided by DND Order no. 174, the AFP underwent notable transformations by redefining the titles of its high-ranking officials. The modifications included:

  1. Chief of Staff of the AFP – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
  2. Vice Chief of Staff of the AFP – Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
  3. The Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFP – Chief of the Joint Staff
  4. Commander, Unified Command – Joint Forces Commander, Unified Command
  5. Deputy Chief of Staff for (functional area) (J-staff) – Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff for (functional area)
  6. Commanding General of the Philippine Army – Chief of the Army
  7. Flag Officer in-Command – Chief of the Navy
  8. Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force – Chief of the Air Force

However, these proposed title changes faced a shift a few months later as President Rodrigo Duterte, through a revocation, halted the adoption of the new position titles. 

The AFP opted to retain the conventional position titles instead.

AFP Unified Commands: Geographical Defenders

The AFP employs a strategic system of “Unified Commands,” where units from the three major services are organized into six distinct regional entities. 

These multi-service commands, led by commanders holding the rank of Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral, report directly to the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. 

The Unified Commands play a crucial role in monitoring, securing, and defending specific geographical areas within the Philippines. Currently, there are six Unified Commands:

  1. Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM):

Geographical Coverage: Ilocos Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, including Scarborough Shoal and Benham Rise.

  1. Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM):

Geographical Coverage: Calabarzon; Mimaropa (excluding Palawan), Bicol Region.

  1. Visayas Command (VISCOM):

Geographical Coverage: Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas.

  1. Western Command (WESCOM):

Geographical Coverage: Palawan and the Spratly Islands.

  1. Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM):

Geographical Coverage: Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Caraga regions.

6. Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM):

Geographical Coverage: Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).

AFP-wide Services and Historical Overview

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operates with a comprehensive structure, including service support, separate units, and historical reforms. Here’s an overview:

1. AFP-wide Service Support and Separate Units:

  • AFP General Headquarters & Headquarters Service Command (GHQ & HSC):
    • Central command overseeing service support.
  • AFP Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (AFP JTF-NCR):
    •  Specialized force for the National Capital Region.
  • Presidential Security Group (PSG):
    • Dedicated to the security of the Philippine President.
  • Philippine Military Academy (PMA):
    • Training institution for future military leaders.
  • AFP Education, Training and Doctrine Command (AFPETDC):
    • Houses key organizations:
      •          Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and General Staff College (AFPCGSC).
      •          AFP Officer Candidate School.
  • AFP Health Service Command:
    • Oversees health-related services, including:
      •          Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center (AFPMC).
      •          Armed Forces of the Philippines Dental Service Center (AFPDSC).
  • AFP Special Operations Command (AFPSOCOM):
    •     Specialized command for strategic operations.
  • AFP Reserve Command (AFPRESCOM):
    •     Unit focused on reservist affairs.
  • AFP Commissary and Exchange Service (AFPCES):
    • Manages military commissaries.
  • Civil Relations Service, AFP (CRSAFP):
    • Handles civil-military relations.
  • Communications, Electronics and Information System Service, AFP (CEISSAFP):
    • Manages communication and information systems.
  • Intelligence Service, AFP (ISAFP):
    • Specialized in military intelligence.
  • AFP Doctrine Development Center (AFPDDC):
    • Center for developing military doctrines.
  • AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center (AFP-PKOC):
    • Engages in peacekeeping efforts.
  • Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU):
    • Auxiliary force supporting military initiatives.

2. Former Branches:

  • Integrated National Police (INP):
    • Merged with the PC to form the PNP in 1990.

3. Defunct Former Commands:

Several commands, including National Capital Region Command (NCRCOM), Eastern Command, Central Luzon Command (CELCOM), and more.

4. Reforms and Modernization:

  •    Focus on security sector governance and reform since the 1986 People Power Revolution.
  •    Ongoing efforts in civilianization, professionalization, modernization, and capacity-building.
  •    Emphasis on aligning with principles like human rights, freedom of information, and the rule of civilian law.

4. Civilianization:

  •    Constitutional emphasis on civilian supremacy over the military.
  •   Dissolution of the Philippine Constabulary, leading to the creation of the civilian Philippine National Police.
  •    Various executive orders reinforcing the civilian nature of specific military entities.
  •    Focus areas for civilianization include increasing civilian capacity, supporting defense management, budget preparation, local defense industry, policy development, and updating the National Defense Act.

Civil Society Engagement and AFP Transformation

This section explores the involvement of civil society, the professionalization efforts, and the modernization initiatives within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

  1. Involvement of Civil Society:
  •    Historically, oversight relied on government agencies, including congress and the Commission on Human Rights.
  •    Civil society organizations play a role in civilianizing, professionalizing, modernizing, and capacitating security institutions.
  •    Emphasis on civil society engagement varies under different administrations.
  1. Professionalization:

21 Years under Ferdinand Marcos:

  •   Officers promoted based on loyalty and connections.
  •   Involvement in implementing Martial Law led to human rights violations and corruption.

1965 to 1986:

  •    Decline in traditional values of civilian supremacy and professionalism.
  •    Need for active professionalization identified.

   Davide Commission (1990) and Feliciano Commission (2003):

  • Recommendations made toward professionalization.

   Philippine Defense Reform (PDR) Program (2003-2016):

  • Measures include “Integrity Development Programs” and recruitment reforms.

   AFP Transformation Roadmap:

  • “Professionalization of all ranks” identified as a strategic priority.
  1. Modernization:

  AFP Modernization Act:

  • Republic Act No. 7898 (1995) declares the state’s policy to modernize the AFP over a 15-year period.
  • Republic Act No. 10349 (2012) amends RA7898, establishing a revised modernization program lasting until 2027.
  • Mandates specific actions for the acquisition of equipment across AFP branches.
  1. Shifts in Emphasis:

   Post-2010:

  •       Greater emphasis on Philippine Defense Reform (PDR).
  •       Engagement with Civil Society Organizations under the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) and AFP-Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP)

15 year AFP Transformation Roadmap (Duterte Administration):

  •       Civil society no longer identified as a major strategic priority.
  •       Continued emphasis on the professionalization of all ranks.

The interplay of civil society involvement, professionalization, and modernization reflects the complex dynamics shaping the evolution of the AFP.

Philippine Defense Reform Program (PDRP): Framework and Implementation

In October 1999, the Joint Defense Assessment (JDA) initiated policy-level discussions between the Philippine Secretary of National Defense and the US Secretary of Defense. 

The JDA, triggered by an initial report in 2001 evaluating Philippine defense capabilities, culminated in devastating findings in 2003. These results highlighted critical deficiencies, including:

  • Systemic approach to policy planning
  • Personnel management and leadership
  • Defense expenditures and budgeting
  • Acquisition
  • Supply and maintenance
  • Quality assurance for the existing industrial base
  • Infrastructure support

During a state visit to Washington DC in May 2003, President Arroyo requested U.S. assistance, leading to a follow-up JDA that underscored institutional and strategic deficiencies as the root causes of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) shortcomings.

Notably, the lack of strategy-based planning emerged as a common thread.

In response, a joint statement by Presidents Arroyo and Bush during the latter’s visit to the Philippines in October 2003 expressed commitment to embark upon a multi-year plan addressing the JDA recommendations. This commitment paved the way for the Philippine Defense Reform (PDR) Program.

The PDRP, initiated as a result of the JDA, aimed at comprehensive reforms. It addressed critical deficiencies identified in the assessment, focusing on key areas such as systemic policy planning, personnel management, defense expenditures, acquisition, supply and maintenance, quality assurance, and infrastructure support. 

The program, launched in 2003, became a multi-year initiative to overhaul the defense structure and improve the AFP’s capabilities.

The inception of the PDRP was a response to the imperative need for strategic planning and the identified shortcomings in various aspects of the Philippine defense system, as revealed by the 2003 JDA.

Philippine Defense Reform Program (PDRP): Implementation Framework and Steps

The Joint Defense Assessment (JDA) in 2003 identified 65 key areas and 207 ancillary concerns, leading to the formulation of ten broad-based recommendations. 

These recommendations became the foundation for the PDR Priority Programs:

1. Multi-Year Defense Planning System (MYDPS)

2. Improve Intelligence, Operations, and Training Capacities

3. Improve Logistics Capacity

4. Professional Development Program

5. Improve Personnel Management System

6. Multi-year Capabilities Upgrade Program (CUP)

7. Optimization of Defense Budget and Improvement of Management Controls

8. Centrally Managed Defense Acquisition System Manned by a Professional Workforce

9. Development of Strategic Communication Capability

10. Information Management Development Program

The Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) envisioned reforms based on an environment of growing economic prowess and decreasing threat levels. The goals included:

1. Addressing AFP capability gaps

2. Implementing capability for seamless interoperability

3. Improving the effectiveness of internal security operations

4. Enhancing the capability to counter terrorism and other transnational threats

5. Providing sustainment and/or long-term viability of acquired capabilities

6. Improving cost-effectiveness of operations

7. Enhancing accountability and transparency in the DND

8. Increasing professionalism in the AFP through reforms in promotions, assignments, and training

9. Increasing AFP involvement in the peace process

Steps of the Philippine Defense Reform Program

According to the goals stated in the Philippines Defense Reform Handbook, the PDR serves as the overall framework to re-engineer systems and re-tool personnel.

The Philippine Defense Reform follows a three-step implementation plan:

  1. Creating the environment for reform (2004–2005)
  2. Enabling the defense establishment (2005–2007)
  3. Implementing and institutionalizing reform (2007–2010)

On September 23, 2003, President Arroyo issued Executive Order 240, streamlining procedures for defense contracts. 

It aimed at the expeditious implementation of defense projects and a speedy response to security threats while promoting transparency, impartiality, and accountability in government transactions. 

Executive Order 240 also created the Office of the Undersecretary of Internal Control in the DND, mandated to institutionalize reforms in the procurement and fund disbursement systems in the AFP and the DND. O

n November 30, 2005, the Secretary of National Defense issued Department Order No. 82 (DO 82), creating the PDR Board and formalizing the reform organizational set-up between the DND and the AFP, defining workflow, and decision-making processes.

Funding of the Philippine Defense Reform Program

The PDR is jointly funded by the U.S. and R.P. governments. From 2004 to 2008, funding amounted to $51.8 million from the U.S. and $514.0 million from the RP. 

Initial planning assumed an 18-year span of reform with steady economic growth and a decline in the military threat. However, these projections did not prove accurate. 

As of 2010, at the six-year mark of PDR, the Philippine economy was internally strong, but suffering during a period of recession that crippled Philippine purchasing power. 

Additionally, the threat situation in the Philippines had not significantly improved, or as in the case of the Sulu Archipelago, was deteriorating. 

During the Arroyo presidency, ‘Rolodexing’ of senior leadership within the DND and AFP constantly put U.S. PDR advocates in a position of re-winning previously won points and positions, creating uncertainty about the program’s continuity under President Benigno Aquino III.

U.S. observers acknowledge the unmistakable progress of the PDRP, reaching a broader scope within the Philippine defense establishment than initially anticipated. 

However, concerns arise regarding the depth of the PDRP’s impact, particularly due to significant underfunding by the Philippine legislature, currently at 0.9 percent of GDP, contrasting with the global average of 2 percent and the U.S. outlay of 4 percent

Despite promises from President Aquino to implement the PDRP, uncertainties persist, with a U.S. observer likening the process to a Jeepney navigating through Manila—a gradual and unpredictable journey.

The Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States, signed in 1951, has not been updated. Discussions in 2013 centered on a U.S.-Philippine Framework Agreement to detail American forces’ operations on Philippine military bases and in territorial waters. 

The Framework Agreement aims to enhance the rotational presence of U.S. forces in the Philippines, supporting maritime security and domain awareness.

Longstanding treaties, including the 1951 MDT and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), are crucial for the Philippines, providing a legally binding foundation for mutual defense cooperation and maritime development.

U.S. Section 1206 ($102.3 million) and 1207 ($16.02 million) funds support Philippine defense operations, focusing on security, counterterrorism training, and rule of law programs. 

The United States is increasing funding for military education and training programs in Southeast Asia, with the latest Department of Defense budget allocating $90 million, marking a 50 percent increase from four years ago.

Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin formally concluded the PDRP on June 23, 2016, as the incoming Duterte administration expressed a desire to set its own direction for Philippine defense matters.

Fixed Term for Key Officials and AFP Organizational Changes

On May 16, 2022, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act no. 11709, introducing a three-year fixed term for key AFP officials. 

The law mandates the compulsory retirement of junior officers, flag officers, and Corps of Professors members based on age or years of active duty. 

The Superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy has a four-year term and cannot ascend to higher positions. 

The law grants the President powers to terminate roles before fixed terms end and extend the Chief of Staff’s term during war or national emergencies with Congressional consent.

The new law aims to enhance AFP organizational professionalism, stability, efficiency, preparedness, and effectiveness.

It seeks to mitigate the effects of the “revolving door” policy and eliminate short-term duties for commanders within the ranks.

Challenges and Revisions in AFP Leadership Law

The implementation of Republic Act no. 11709, introducing fixed terms for key AFP officials, faced substantial challenges within the organization, sparking concerns among middle-ranking officers. 

Issues included apprehensions about the promotion of younger officers, potential reductions in promotions for lieutenant colonels to colonels and lieutenant commanders to commanders due to shorter tenure limits, and fears of compromising the merit-based promotion system.

Higher-ranking officers encountered hurdles due to fixed tenures, exemplified by the case of Bartolome Vicente Bacarro’s appointment as AFP Chief of Staff. 

An editorial by retired Major General Edgard Arevalo in The Manila Times titled “The fates of two AFP chiefs of staff” highlighted Bacarro’s appointment preceding General Andres Centino’s mandatory retirement age. 

This situation maintained Centino’s status as the sole four-star officer in the AFP, impeding Bacarro’s promotion to the next rank.

The issues stemming from the new law created unrest within the AFP organization, a sentiment acknowledged by then DND Officer-in-Charge Carlito Galvez Jr. After months of deliberations, a corrective measure was enacted. 

On May 17, 2023, President Bongbong Marcos signed Republic Act no. 11939, reducing the number of officials to five. 

The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will have a maximum three-year tenure, the Commanding General of the Philippine Army and the Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force will have a maximum two-year tenure, and the Flag Officer-in-Command of the Philippine Navy will have a maximum two-year tenure. 

The Superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy will serve a four-year term.

The revised law retained the President’s authority to terminate officials at their pleasure.

On January 7, 2023, General Andres Centino was reappointed as AFP Chief of Staff, succeeding Lieutenant General Bartolome Vicente Bacarro. 

This made Centino the only AFP Chief to be appointed to the same office twice, serving from November 12, 2021, to August 8, 2022, and from January 6, 2023, to July 19, 2023.

Strategic Shift in AFP and Challenges

Recent national policies have reoriented the AFP’s strategic focus from internal matters to external, territorial defense. 

However, this shift presents challenges, particularly in the distribution of maritime security resources across various conflict domains, including territorial, transnational, environmental, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) conflicts.

Uneven Resource Distribution:

Challenges arise from the uneven allocation of maritime security resources. Philippine Executive Order 57, signed in 2011 by President Benigno Aquino III, aimed to enhance governance in the maritime domain but faced difficulties in resource distribution.

AFP Reserve Manpower:

Between 1995 and 2019, AFP Reserve Manpower totaled 741,937, including 4,384,936 ROTC Cadets. Among the reservists, 93,062 are considered ready reserve, 610,586 are in the standby reserve, with a total of 20,451 affiliated reserve units.

Maritime Surveillance Challenges:

Conflicts over responsibility for maritime surveillance persist, creating challenges for the Territorial Defense Forces (TBA).

The separation of the Philippine Coast Guard from the Philippine Navy in 1986, following the expulsion of Ferdinand Marcos, contributed to resource imbalances and jurisdictional confusion.

AFP Recognition and Achievements:

The AFP has garnered recognition and commendations across local sectors, the national government, and the international community.

Philippine Army Shooting Team:

Notably, the Philippine Army shooting team achieved significant success, emerging as the overall champion in a two-week competition held in Australia in 2013. 

In the 2014 Australian Army Skills at the Arms Meeting (AASAM), the team secured 14 gold medals, 50 silver medals, and two bronze medals.

United Nations Service Medal:

The 7th Philippine Contingent peacekeepers to the Golan Heights received the prestigious United Nations Service Medal, acknowledging their outstanding performance in fulfilling their mission. 

This recognition highlights the AFP’s contributions to international peacekeeping efforts.

Officer Ranks:

Within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, officer ranks signify leadership and authority.

This brief overview outlines the structure of officer ranks, highlighting their crucial role in military command and organization.

Philippine Army

General / Flag OfficersSenior OfficersJunior Officers
GeneralColonelLieutenant Commandant
Lieutenant GeneralLieutenant ColonelFirst Lieutenant
Major GeneralCommandantSub-Lieutenant
Brigadier General

Philippine Navy

Admiral / Flag OfficersSenior OfficersJunior Officers
AdmiralCaptainLieutenant
Vice AdmiralCommanderLieutenant (Junior Grade)
Rear AdmiralLieutenant CommanderEnsi
Commodore

Philippine Air Force

General / Flag OfficersSenior OfficersJunior Officers
GeneralColonelCaptain
Lieutenant GeneralLieutenant ColonelFirst Lieutenant
Major GeneralMajorSecond Lieutenant
Brigadier General

The military ranks in the Philippine Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps draw heavy inspiration from those of the United States Armed Forces, officially employing English as the primary language for reference and address within the Armed Forces, distinct from Spanish or Tagalog/Filipino. 

The Philippine Navy aligns its ranks with the US Navy, diverging only in the equivalence of the rank of Commodore to the Lower Half Rear Admiral in the US Navy. 

The alternate designations for lieutenant junior grade, lieutenant senior grade, second lieutenant, and first lieutenant are simply “lieutenant” in English, or “tenyente” or “teniente” in Tagalog and Spanish.

In the Philippine Marine Corps, enlisted personnel ranks mirror those of the Army, with specific exceptions, such as the absence of specialist, sergeant first class, and first sergeant. 

Notably, certain ranks like lance corporal, gunnery sergeant, and master gunnery sergeant are exclusive to the Army. 

The Marine Corps also features appointed sergeant majors rather than ranked positions, exemplified by roles like the Command Sergeant Major, AFP, or the Command Master Chief Petty Officer, Philippine Navy .

The Philippine Navy incorporates enlisted ranks inspired by the U.S. Navy, with specializations denoted, as exemplified by titles like “Master Chief and Boatswain’s mate Juan Dela Cruz, PN” (Philippine Navy). 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) adopts pre-1955 US military enlisted ranks, with modifications, particularly in the Navy and senior NCO ranks. Notably, there are no warrant officers between officer and enlisted ranks.

Unique to the Philippine military are the highest enlisted ranks of first chief master sergeant (for the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force) and first master chief petty officer (for the Navy), established in 2004, holding precedence. 

Previously, the highest enlisted ranks were first chief sergeant and master chief petty officer, with the latter now remaining unused.

The honorary five-star rank, instituted by President Ferdinand Marcos, is conferred upon assuming the role of the President of the Philippines, serving as the highest military official during a six-year term. 

Notably, the only career military officer to attain the five-star rank de jure was President Fidel V. Ramos. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and Emilio Aguinaldo also held the equivalent title of Field Marshal.

The AFP employs unitary rank insignia for enlisted personnel, with raised chevrons indicating seniority, and similar practices are observed in the Philippine Air Force and Navy. 

Noteworthy variations include sleeve insignia for enlisted personnel in the Army and Navy, distinct from the US, while the Marine Corps incorporates unique symbols from Master Sergeants onward, introduced in the early 2000s.

Officer ranks in the AFP derive inspiration from revolutionary insignia following the 1898 declaration of independence. 

Daily, combat, duty, and technical uniforms feature unitary rank insignia on shoulders and collars, with distinctions in semi-dress, dress, and mess uniforms. 

While the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps employ unitary rank insignia on shoulder boards, the Navy aligns with the US Navy format, differing only in the star arrangement on full dress uniform shoulder boards. 

Notably, the Navy employs sleeve insignia exclusively on dress blue uniforms, with distinctive markings for various officer ranks.

Conclusion:

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has a deep-rooted history closely connected with the country’s path to independence. Formed on December 21, 1935, it has played a crucial role in protecting the Philippines’ freedom and ensuring national security.

The AFP’s structure, inspired by the United States Armed Forces, is evident in the ranks of the Philippine Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. English is used for ranks, reflecting the military’s working language with cultural variations in Tagalog, Spanish, and indigenous languages.

Understanding ranks is crucial for aspiring AFP members. The Navy aligns with the U.S. Navy, introducing unique distinctions like the rank of Commodore. The Marine Corps, sharing ranks with the Army, maintains its identity.

Uniquely, high-ranking enlisted positions like the first chief master sergeant and first master chief petty officer were introduced in 2004, emphasizing the AFP’s commitment to recognizing excellence and leadership among enlisted personnel.

If you aspire to become an officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and contribute to the nation’s defense, the journey starts with understanding the ranks and opportunities available. 

The AFP offers a distinct path for officers, whether you’re a recent graduate, a seasoned professional, or someone looking to make a career change.

Explore diverse roles within the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. The AFP values leadership, dedication, and a commitment to service. 

As you navigate the process, consider reaching out to recruitment offices, attending information sessions, and connecting with current officers to gain insights into the rewarding career that awaits you.

Joining the AFP is not just a job; it’s a commitment to safeguarding the Philippines and contributing to its growth and security. 

Your role will be instrumental in shaping the nation’s future.

Disclaimer:

The Philippine Go does not collect fees and is not a hiring agency, nor is it related to any hiring agency for employment abroad. 

All information contained here is solely for informational purposes and rightfully belongs to its rightful owner. 

Attached in the last section of the content are references for further verification, if needed. Read more

Reference:

  1. Armed Forces of the Philippines. (n.d.). About, Ranks. Retrieved from [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Forces_of_the_Philippines]