AFP renames key positions, military chief gets additional designation

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has renamed key positions and added a new designation for the military chief as part of efforts to make the institution "more responsive to current and future non-conventional threats," a military spokesperson said on Monday, July 13.

The AFP chief of staff is the concurrent Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, according to a June 19 memorandum signed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Lorenzana also directed the renaming of positions in the AFP general headquarters and the major service commands – the Army, Air Force, and Navy. The changes are now in effect.

The following are the new titles for the top military positions, akin to the US military model:

  • Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (formerly AFP Vice Chief of Staff)
  • Chief of the Joint Staff (formerly The Deputy Chief of Staff)
  • Chief of the Army (formerly Commanding General, Philippine Army)
  • Chief of the Air Force (formerly Commanding General, Philippine Air Force)
  • Chief of the Navy (formerly Flag Office in Command, Philippine Navy)

Lorenzana's memorandum also mentioned a collective body known as the AFP Joint Chiefs composed of the following:

  • Chief of Staff/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
  • Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
  • Chief of the Joint Staff
  • Chief of the Army
  • Chief of the Air Force
  • Chief of the Navy

The AFP Joint Chiefs will advise the President as the Commander-in-Chief, and the defense chief on military concerns as well as the strategic direction of the AFP, among others, Lorenzana said in the memo.

Before he retires in August, incumbent AFP chief of staff General Felimon Santos Jr will also function as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

"Basically, the purpose of the designation and the renaming of key positions of the AFP is for effective command, control, and supervision by the chief of staff of the AFP who is also the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs," said AFP Spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo.

Rappler learned that the memorandum indicated that the military chief's additional designation and the renaming of the AFP positions are part of the Department of National Defense's intention "to instill the culture of jointness within the AFP and strictly implement the 'force provider-force employer' concept between the Major Services and the Unified Commands."

Who are the military's force providers? The Army, Air Force, and Navy are the force providers. They will send battalions, ships, planes, and other military materiel needed to carry out military campaign plans in the field. The service commands are also in charge of modernization, recruitment, and training of soldiers, and carrying out administrative functions.

Who are the military's force employers? The unified commands are the AFP's force employers. Led by the area commanders, they are the ones that put campaign plans together and operationalize them to defeat enemies of the state. The AFP's area commands are the following:

  • Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM)
  • Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM)
  • Western Command (WESCOM)
  • Central Command (CENTCOM)
  • Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM)
  • Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM)
  • Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR)

The military's overall campaign plan is supervised and undertaken by the AFP chief of staff.

Arevalo explained the dual roles of the military chief this way:

  • As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Head of the AFP, he will have administrative supervision and control over the "force providers" who are the Chief of the Joint Staff and the Chiefs of the Services
  • As Chief of Staff and the Head of the AFP, he will have the operational supervision and control over the "force employers" who are the joint forces commanders of the unified commands

Chester Cabalza, president of the newly formed think tank International Development and Security Cooperation, said that these new designations are part of the AFP's paradigm shift, responding to the gaps in the joint operation of the different service commands.

"But however and whatever way you call it, the AFP must first fix its cultural organization structure. It's just like the BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) where the name was changed but the old issues and practices remain," Cabalza told Rappler. –

Nikko Dizon

Nikko Dizon is a freelance journalist specializing in security and political reporting. She has extensively covered issues involving the military, the West Philippine Sea maritime dispute, human rights, and the peace process.