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Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

The Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) executes the President's command functions in relation to military strategy, tactics and operation. He exercises command and control over all elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The Chief of Staff, AFP, under the authority and direction of the President and the Secretary of National Defense shall be responsible for the development and execution of the national defense programs and armed forces mission; and prescribe, in accordance with policies of the Secretary of National Defense, the organization, powers, functions and duties of the various staffs, services, installations and other units of the AFP.

The Chief of Staff serves as military advisor and staff to the Secretary of National Defense; Prepares strategic plans and provide for the strategic direction of the AFP, including the direction of operations of unified or specified commands; Prepares integrated logistic responsibilities in accordance with those plans; Prepares integrated plans for military mobilization; Provides adequate, timely and reliable joint intelligence for use within the Department; and Reviews major personnel, material and logistic requirements of the AFP in relation to strategic and logistics plans.

The origin of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) could be traced to the Tejeros Convention in 1897-where the revolutionary government of General Emilio Aguinaldo created the Philippine Army under Captain General Artemio Ricarte. This Army was the off-shoot of the Revolutionary Forces, which took arms against the Spanish Government from August 30, 1896 up to December 10, 1898 when the treaty of Paris was entered into by the United States of America and Spain. The same Army engaged the Americans during the hostilities between the Philippines and the United States which began on the night of February 4, 1899 and lasted up to September 25, 1903 - when the last of Filipino Generals, General Simeon Ola surrendered to the Americans.

After the Filipino-American war, the country's armed forces organized through the promulgation of the National Defense Act in 1935 which created the Philippine Army, with the off-shore patrol a and Army Air Corps as its major components. The Philippine Constabulary, was then existing under the Department of Interior.

After World War II, four military areas were activated to take the place of military districts. The Armed Forces was reorganized which gave birth to the four major services of the Armed Forces. Headquarters National Defense Forces was renamed General Headquarters Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The Philippine Army subsequently became the Armed Forces of the Philippines on December 23, 1950 with four (4) major services namely: Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy and the Philippine Constabulary. The country was divided into four military areas. This set-up remained until the early 1980's when a major restructuring of the AFP was made as result of the alarming upsurge activities in the country regional unified commands were organized and areas of responsibility were assigned which conformed them to the twelve regional boundaries of the country.

Authority over the AFP's four services was vested in the chief of staff, a general. The chief of staff exercised command through the General Headquarters, which was located with the Department of National Defense in Manila's Camp Aguinaldo. Immediately subordinate to him was the vice chief of staff, a lieutenant general, and the deputy chief of staff, a major general who was the military's chief administrator. The General Headquarters was staffed with a coordinating staff, J-1 through J-9, and a special staff. Coordinating staff officers included deputies for personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, plans, comptroller, civil-military operations, and education and training. Also subordinate to the chief of staff were the various specified and support commands and area unified commands.

Throughout the country, the regionally based area unified commands exercised operational control over AFP units of all services deployed in their regions. AFP General Headquarters created six area commands in 1987 and 1988 by combining the thirteen regional unified commands that had been formed in 1983. Area command boundaries were defined by the country's numbered political regions (see fig. 9). Northern Luzon Command incorporated regions 1, 2 and 3; Southern Luzon Command encompassed region 4 (except Palawan) and region 5; Visayas Command covered the Visayan Islands in regions 6, 7, and 8; and Southern Command incorporated the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, regions 9 through 12. The AFP's Western Command was responsible for the province of Palawan (part of region 4) and for Philippine claims in the Spratly Islands. The sixth area command, the National Capital Region Command, had operational control over military units in metropolitan Manila. Area commanders directed counterinsurgency operations in their respective areas, but support functions -- such as training and logistics -- were left to the military support services and joint commands such as the AFP's Logistics Command and Training Command.

Ferdinand Marcos was responsible for making the previously nonpolitical, professional Armed Forces of the Philippines, which since American colonial times had been modeled on the United States military, a major actor in the political process. This subversion occurred done in two ways. First, Marcos appointed officers from the Ilocos region, his home province, to its highest ranks. Regional background and loyalty to Marcos rather than talent or a distinguished service record were the major factors in promotion. Fabian Ver, for example, had been a childhood friend of Marcos and later his chauffeur, rose to become chief of staff of the armed forces and head of the internal security network. Secondly, both officers and the rank and file became beneficiaries of generous budget allocations. Officers and enlisted personnel received generous salary increases. Armed forces personnel increased from about 58,000 in 1971 to 142,000 in 1983. Top-ranking military officers, including Ver, played an important policy-making role. On the local level, commanders had opportunities to exploit the economy and establish personal patronage networks, as Marcos and the military establishment evolved a symbiotic relationship under martial law.

A military whose commanders, with some exceptions, were rewarded for loyalty rather than competence proved both brutal and ineffective in dealing with the rapidly growing communist insurgency and Muslim separatist movement. Treatment of civilians in rural areas was often harsh, causing rural people, as a measure of self-protection rather than ideological commitment, to cooperate with the insurgents. The communist insurgency, after some reverses in the 1970s, grew quickly in the early 1980s, particularly in some of the poorest regions of the country. The Muslim separatist movement reached a violent peak in the mid1970s and then declined greatly, because of divisions in the leadership of the movement and reduced external support brought about by the diplomatic activity of the Marcos government.

As the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) grew rapidly in size during the 1970s, so did its leaders' involvement in the nation's political life. Professionalism eroded as Marcos loyalists were rewarded with key positions in the military, government, and civilian corporations. By February 1986, the military was deeply factionalized and widely criticized by human rights groups for abuses and corruption. In the wake of a fraudulent tally of the presidential election and Marcos's refusal to step aside, led by the commander of the Philippine Constabulary Lieutenant General Fidel V. Ramos and Minister of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, a group of reform-minded officers mutinied and sparked a popular revolt that unseated Marcos and allowed Corazon Aquino to assume the presidency.

Military rebellions continued under Aquino. Three, in July 1986 and January and April 1987, were relatively small affairs led by disgruntled former Marcos loyalists. A potentially serious plot in October to November 1986 was stillborn and resulted in the removal of the minister of national defense, Juan Ponce Enrile. The rebellions of August 1987 and December 1989, however, were credible coup attempts that, by most accounts, almost toppled the president. They were led by many of the same reformist officers that had helped bring Aquino to power. Although only a fraction of the AFP actively supported the coup attempts, many personnel were said to be sympathetic to the mutineers' complaints about the government. The threat of yet another military rebellion persisted in 1991 but had diminished considerably as rebel leaders surrendered to the government and talks began between military leaders and rebels.

When not distracted by coup attempts, the 153,500-strong armed forces focused on combating the communist insurgency and, to a lesser extent, the threat of a rejuvenated Moro rebellion. The ground forces dominated the counterinsurgency effort. The smaller navy and air force provided support and a limited patrol capability. Improvements in the military's image, discipline, and performance during the late 1980s contributed to reversing CPP growth.

With nearly all available resources committed to internal security functions, the AFP's conventional capabilities were modest. The nation had faced no threat of direct foreign aggression since Japan's invasion during World War II. The United States and the Philippines were parties to a mutual defense treaty, and should a credible external threat emerge, the military would be likely to rely on support from the United States.

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Page last modified: 12-05-2016 19:03:43 ZULU