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Philippine Deptartment of National Defense

The 1987 constitution mandates civilian control of the military and establishes the president as commander in chief of the armed forces. The president also heads the National Security Council, ostensibly the policy-making and advisory body for matters connected with national defense. President Aquino reestablished the council in 1986 through an executive order that provided for a National Security Council director to advise the president on national security matters and for a National Security Council Secretariat. The council itself is composed of the president and at least nine others: the vice president; the AFP chief of staff; National Security Council director; the executive secretary; and the secretaries of foreign affairs, national defense, interior and local government, justice, and labor and employment (called ministers before 1987). By the end of 1990, however, the National Security Council had only convened twice.

Much of the real authority for policy development appeared to reside with a smaller cabinet group that met more frequently. A cabinet Cluster for Political and Security Affairs, known as Cluster E, routinely advised the president on national security matters. Cluster E membership was more limited, but included key members of the National Security Council, such as its director and the secretaries of national defense, foreign affairs, justice, and finance.

Responsibility for national security was vested in the Department of National Defense. The principal functions of the department in 1991 were to defend the state against internal and external threats and, through the Philippine National Police, to maintain law and order. A broad interpretation of these roles historically has involved the department in national development tasks, including civic action, to address the causes for internal unrest. The secretary of national defense, by law a civilian, was charged with advising the president on defense matters and developing defense policy.

The Department of National Defense (DND) and its primary bureau, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), play a crucial role in maintaining a growing ecomony. The mission of DND is "to provide and maintain the conditions of security, stability and peace and order conducive to economic growth and national development". The AFP is mandated to uphold the sovereignty, support the Constitution and defend the territory of the Republic of the Philippines against all enemies, foreign and domestic; promote and advance the national aims, interests and policies; and plan, organize, maintain, develop and deploy its regular and citizen reserve forces for national security. Through the years, the DND and AFP have remained steadfast and active in protecting the nation from threats that have eaten up resources and hindered lasting economic growth.

The AFP Chief of Staff is given the command function and also serves as direct security adviser to the President while the Secretary of the Defense department is not included in the AFP chain of command. The Defense Secretary is part of the AFP chain of command in the aspect of administration, but not in the area of operation. Civilian supremacy is shown with the President representing the sovereign will of the people and also as commander-in-chief of the AFP.

The recommendation of the Davide and Feliciano Commissions, the two bodies tasked to investigate the failed December 1989 coup and the July 2003 Oakwood meeting, respectively, that appointment for Secretary of National Defense should come from “civilian with capability, integrity and leadership”. The interpretation of “civilian” by the Feliciano Commission does not include retired military officers, adding that no amount of time is sufficient to “de-militarize” former members of the AFP.

The Feliciano Commission report stated "This Commission reiterates the recommendation of the Davide Commission to have a civilian appointed to the position of Secretary of National Defense.5 Beyond the need to institutionalize the supremacy of civilian authority over the military, the appointment of persons who have not had long and deep ties to the military, and who have not held positions in the military establishment that itself needs to be reformed, is essential if a reform program is to succeed. Although military officers acquire a civilian status upon retirement, they are likely to bring the rigidity of hierarchy, seniority, camaraderie, and other aspects of the military culture into the office of the SND that would obstruct reform."



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