VOLUME 13 | NO. 30 | 31-JANUARY-2005
Cttee approves creation of new rank for AFP enlisted personnel
THE COMMITTEE on National Defense, headed by Representative Roilo Golez (2nd District, Para?aque City), has approved a legislative proposal creating the rank of First Chief Master Sergeant or First Master Chief Petty Officer (E-10) in the enlisted ranks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Embodied in House Bill 224 authored by Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon, the proposal also provides that such rank, which is the highest both in position and pay grade for enlisted personnel, shall be held by the AFP Command Sergeant Major.
In his explanatory note to his bill, Rep. Biazon stated that the position of Sergeant Major serves a very vital purpose in the AFP chain of command. ?He is the most important adviser to the Chief of Staff on matters concerning the discipline and morale of the troops,? he said.
He added that the proposed law would give due recognition to the position of Sergeant Major of the AFP whose authority and responsibility are distinct from the other Sergeant Majors of subordinate commands of the AFP. It would also afford enlisted personnel a goal to go up through the ranks just as in the officer corps.
During the meeting of the Committee last week, AFP Vice Chief of Staff Ariston delos Reyes stated that the AFP concurs with the proposal, provided the rank shall be accorded to the AFP Command Sergeant Major only.
Delos Reyes said that for purposes of classification, the pay grade of the proposed First Chief Master Sergeant or First Master Chief Petty Officer, while in active service, shall be equivalent to the officer corps? Cadet/Probationary Second Lieutenant (P2LT), which is salary grade 19. This grade level will render importance and distinction to the rank of First Chief Master Sergeant or First Master Chief Petty Officer from the other non-commissioned officer ranks.
He clarified that based on the current AFP Table of Pay and Allowance, salary grade 18 is allotted for the rank of Chief Master Sergeant or Master Chief Petty Officer, while salary grade 19 is reserved for Cadets/P2LTs.
However, delos Reyes expressed reservation over the entitlements and benefits proposed to be granted to the First Chief Master Sergeant or First Master Chief Petty Officer upon retirement, which would be equal to the retirement pay and benefits granted to a Captain or Lieutenant Senior Grade.
He averred that the retirement benefits of the new rank should be the same as those of a First Lieutenant or Lieutenant Junior Grade, inasmuch as the retirement benefits of the next lower rank, which is the Chief Master Sergeant or Master Chief Petty Officer, is equivalent to that of a Second Lieutenant or Ensign.
Rep. Biazon agreed with the recommendations made by the AFP Vice Chief of Staff.
In the same meeting, the Committee deliberated on two bills that were filed in the light of recent anomalies involving the office of AFP Comptroller.
These are HB 3370, which proposes to create the Office of the Comptroller of the AFP to be headed by a civilian, and HB 3380, which seeks to establish an Internal Affairs Office in the AFP.
Rep. Golez, proponent of the two bills, said that being a civilian, the Chief Comptroller would be insulated from the pressures within the military structure and culture that normally lead to corruption. This would enable the comptroller to function more efficiently, effectively and independently, he added.
Under the bill, the Office of the Comptroller shall take the duties of the deputy Chief of Staff for Comptrollership particularly those relating to the AFP?s budgeting, accounting, and financial operations.
Similarly, the Internal Affairs Office (IAO) in the AFP must be headed by a civilian with vast experience in prosecution and legal matters to ensure transparency and objectivity, he said.
However, Rep. Golez added, the rest of the members of the IAO-AFP must come from the military ?as they are in the best position to appreciate and unravel the peculiarities of military culture.?
The Internal Affairs Office is envisioned to be an independent office tasked with investigating crimes, including graft and corruption, and misdemeanors committed by AFP personnel and assisting in the prosecution of the same.
Commenting on the two bills, delos Reyes stated that the reorganization of the AFP is within the authority of the Secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND).
Citing pertinent provisions of Executive Order 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987, delos Reyes said the Defense Secretary may abolish existing staff, offices and units in general headquarters, or transfer or consolidate their functions and duties.
He informed the body that in order to address the alleged malpractices in the service, the incumbent AFP Chief of Staff recommended to the Defense Secretary the deactivation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Comptrollership or J6.
Along this line, he continued, the core functions of the J6, such as budgeting, fiscal management, internal audit, and accounting were transferred to four separate, newly activated offices to strengthen the organization?s check and balance system. These new offices are: General Headquarters (GHQ) Resource Management Office; GHQ Management and Fiscal Office; Office of the Internal Auditor; and the GHQ Accounting Office.
In a memorandum to the AFP Chief of Staff dated January 14, 2005, the Defense Secretary approved the deactivation of the J6 and the activation of the aforementioned four separate offices, he added.
While commending the reorganization effort undertaken, Rep. Golez nevertheless said it could be changed by the next administration depending on the sentiments of the incumbent Defense Secretary or even the President of the Philippines.
The lawmaker explained that the purpose of his bill is to make the proposed changes in the AFP structure statutory, so that these will not be subject to the discretion of whoever will be the incumbent DND Secretary.
On the motion of Rep. Simeon Datumanong (2nd District, Maguindanao), the body decided to hold another meeting to further study the two measures.l