The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) (Filipino: Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas) is composed of the Philippine Army, Philippine Navyand Philippine Air Force. The AFP is a volunteer force and has a total active strength of 113,500 with 131,000 personnel in reserve.
The official birth of the Armed Forces of the Philippines took place with the passage of the National Defense Act, Commonwealth Act No. 1, on December 21, 1935.However, the origin of the organization can be traced back to the establishment of the Philippine Constabulary,armed Filipino forces organized in 1901 by the United States to combat the Philippine Revolutionary Army Philippine Revolutionary Forces then led by Gen.Emilio Aguinaldo.
Initially, after declaring independence in 1898, the Philippine government took on a dictatorial form. This was replaced by a revolutionary government headed by Emilio Aguinaldo as president on June 23, 1898. The First Philippine Republic was formally established with the proclamation of the Malolos Constitution on January 23, 1899. When it became apparent that the United States had no intention of recognizing the newly established Republic, the Philippine–American War erupted with a declaration of war by the Philippines on the United States. The Philippine Revolutionary Forces, which lacked sufficient ammunition, lost many battles. By 1901, the Filipinos had completely lost the war.
The Philippine Revolutionary Army was founded on March 22, 1897 in Cavite. The armed force of General Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government, with General Artemio Ricarte as its first Captain General, replaced the Katipunan military. Though the Philippine Army grew out of forces which fought in opposition to and which defeated forces led by General Ricarte, General Ricarte is considered to be the father of the Philippine Army.
In 1901, the United States established the Philippine Constabulary for purpose of assisting in combating the remnants of the revolutionaries. The AFP was formally organized during the American Commonwealth era through the National Defense Act of 1935. The Philippine Army was initially organized from among former holders of Reserve Commissions in the United States Army, from among former officers of the Philippine Scouts and Constabulary, and others—forces involved in the defeat of the revolutionary forces which Ricarte led. Ricarte was the only revolutionary general who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. and that he lived in exile in Hong Kong and later in Japan. Ricarte was one of the leaders of an organization termed “MAKAPILIS”, called Makabayan: Katipunan ng mga Pilipino, and characterized as having been a “fanatical pro-Japanese organization” during the WW-II Japanese occupation.
Philippine Commonwealth, the Cold war and Present
During the Philippine Commonwealth era,President Manuel L. Quezon,the first president of the Commonwealth, renamed the Philippine Army to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and asked General Douglas MacArthur to be its first commanding officer after the Philippines gained independence from the U.S. MacArthur accepted the offer and became the only person of foreign citizenship to be in the ranks of the AFP. MacArthur held the rank of Field Marshal, a rank no other person has since held in the AFP. MacArthur expanded the Philippine armed forces,but they were not ready for combat at the start of the Pacific War in December 1941 and unable to defeat the Battle of the Philippines 1941–42 Japanese invasion of the Philippines.
During World War II, all soldiers of the Philippine military were incorporated in the U.S. Army Forces Far East (USAFFE),with MacArthur appointed as its commander. USAFFE made its last stand on Corregidor Island in the Philippines,after which Japanese forces were able to force all remaining Filipino and American troops to surrender. After Japan was defeated in World War II, the Philippines gained its independence (its second independence – the Philippines recognizes Aguinaldo’s declaration of independence in 1898 as its original year of independence).
At the height of the Cold War, the Philippines was one of the most well-equipped militaries in Asia, because of a tight diplomatic-relationship with the United States in battling the threat of Communism. Since 2001, the Philippine armed forces has been active in supporting the War on terror, initiated by the U.S. and its allies.
Organization and branches
The 1987 Philippine Constitution placed the AFP under the control of a civilian, the President of the Philippines, who acts as its Commander-in-Chief. All of its branches are part of the Department of National Defense, which is headed by the Secretary of National Defense.
The AFP has three major branches:
- Philippine Army (PA) – Hukbong Katihan ng Pilipinas
- Philippine Navy (PN) – Hukbong Dagat ng Pilipinas
- Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) – Hukbong Kawal Pandagat ng Pilipinas
- Philippine Air Force (PAF) – Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas
These three major branches are unified under a Chief of Staff who normally holds the rank of General/Admiral. He is assisted by a Vice Chief of Staff, normally holding the rank of Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral. Each of the three major branches are headed by an officer with the following titles: Commanding General of the Philippine Army (Lieutenant General), Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy (Vice Admiral), and Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force (Lieutenant General).
The Philippine Constabulary (PC) was a gendarmerie type para-military police force of the Philippines established in 1901 replacing the Guardia Civil by the United States-appointed administrative authority. On December 13, 1990, Republic Act No. 6975 was approved, organizing the Philippine National Police (PNP) consisting of the members of the Integrated National Police (INP) and the officers and enlisted personnel of the PC. Upon the effectivity of that Act, the PC ceased to be a major service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the INP ceased to be the national police force.
On January 29, 1991, the PC and the INP were formally retired and the PNP was activated in their place.
Units from these three services may be assigned to one of several “Unified Commands”, which are multi-service, regional entities:
- Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM)
- Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM)
- National Capital Region Command (NCRCOM)
- Central Command (CENTCOM)
- Western Command (WESCOM)
- Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM)
AFP-wide support and separate units
Several service-wide support services and separate units report directly to the AFP General Headquarters (AFP GHQ), these include:
- General Headquarters and Headquarters Service Command (GHQ & HSC) (acts as the fourth Major Service Command repesenting the support and independent services of the Armed Forces)
- Presidential Security Group (PSG)
- Philippine Military Academy (PMA)
- Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and General Staff College (AFPCGSC)
- Armed Forces of the Philippines Reserve Command (AFPRESCOM)
- Intelligence Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP)
- Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center (AFPMC)
- Armed Forces of the Philippines Commissary and Exchange Service (AFPCES)
- Communications, Electronics and Information System Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines (CEISSAFP)
- Civil Relations Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines (CRSAFP)
- Armed Forces of the Philippines, Dental Service Center (AFPDSC)
- Chief of Staff Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP) – Lt. Gen. Eduardo SL. Oban Jr., AFP
- Vice Chief of Staff Armed Forces of the Philippines (VCSAFP) – Lt. Gen. Reynaldo B. Mapagu, AFP
- Deputy Chief of Staff Armed Forces of the Philippines (DCSAFP) – Vacant
- Pangalawang Tenyente (Second Lieutenant),
- Unang Tenyente (First Lieutenant),
- Kapitan (Captain),
- Magat (Major),
- Tenyente Koronel (Lieutenant Colonel),
- Koronel (Colonel),
- Brigadyer Heneral (Brigadier General),
- Magat Heneral (Major General),
- Tenyente Heneral (Lieutenant General),
- Heneral (General)
These ranks are officially used in the Philippine Army, Air Force and Marine Corps. Also, the pronunciations of these ranks are actually adaptations from the Spanish and English language except, for the words “pangalawang” and “unang” which came from original Tagalog pronunciation.
In the Philippine Navy however, the pronunciation in Filipino of the officer’s ranks, is just the same as in English since these ranks were adopted from the ranks of U.S. and British Royal navies. There are some ranks though (placed in parenthesis) that can be translated and officially pronounced in Filipino. The ranks are as follows:
- Lieutenant Junior Grade (Tenyente na Mabababang Baitang)
- Lieutenant or Lieutenant Senior Grade (Tenyente or Tenyente na Mataas na Baitang)
- Lieutenant Commander (Tenyente Kumander)
- Commander (Kumander)
- Captain (Kapitan)
- Rear Admiral
- Vice Admiral(Bise Admiral)
The alternative style of address for the ranks of Lieutenant Junior Grade and Lieutenant Senior Grade in Filipino is simply tenyentebecause it is too redundant if you address them fully in Filipino. It is also the same as Second and First Lieutenants in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.
The ranks of enlisted personnel in Filipino are just the same as their U.S. counterparts but, they never use “Specialist”, “Sergeant First Class”, “First Sergeant” (for Philippine Army and Air Force except Marine Corps), “Lance Corporal”, “Gunnery Sergeant”, “Master Gunnery Sergeant” in the Philippine Army and Marine Corps. They simply start to address their ranks from Private Second Class up to Sergeant Major.
In the Philippine Air Force, they also use Airman Second Class up to Chief Master Sergeant, the same as in its U.S. counterparts.
In the Philippine Navy, they also use enlisted ranks which come from the U.S. Navy with their specialization.
For Example: “Master Chief and Boatswain’s mate Juan Dela Cruz, PN” (Philippine Navy).
The alternative style to address the non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel in Filipino are
- from Private Second Class up to Private First Class, pribeyt or mga pribeyt for a group of privates, adopted from the English language.
- Kabo for corporal which is adopted from the word “cabo” in Spanish, but the most common is korporal (except air force they use airman or airmen and airwoman or airwomen from Airman Second Class up to Senior Airman).
- Sarhento for sergeants in the Army, Air force and Marine Corps which is also adopted from the word “sargento” from the Spanish language.
In the Navy, the original Filipino alternative style for Seaman or Seawoman Apprentice up to Seaman or Seawoman First Class is mandaragat or mga mandaragat for a group of seamen and seawomen. For petty officers, they are called P.O.’s and tsip for Chief (Petty) Officers up to Master Chief (Petty) Officers.
There are no warrant officers in between officer ranks and enlisted ranks.
The uniqueness of Philippine military ranks can be seen in the new ranks of First Chief Master Sergeant (for the Army, Navy Marines and Air Force) and First Master Chief Petty Officer (for the Navy) both created in 2004 but have not been used yet, and in the use of the Chief Master Sergeant rank in the Army, Air Force and the Marine Corps.
Five Star General/Admiral
President Ferdinand Marcos, who acted also as national defense secretary (from 1965–1967 and 1971–1972), issued an order conferring the five star general/admiral rank to the President of the Philippines, making himself as its first rank holder.Since then, the rank of five-star general/admiral became an honorary rank of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces whenever a new president assumes office for a six-year term thus, making the Office of the President the most senior military official.
The only career military officer who reached the five-star general/admiral is President Fidel V. Ramos (USMA 1950) (president from 1992–1998) who rose from second lieutenant up to commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Philippine Defense Reform
In October 1999, the Joint Defense Assessment (JDA) began as a policy level discussion between the Philippine Secretary of National Defense and the US Secretary of Defense. An initial JDA report in 2001 provided an objective evaluation of Philippine defense capability. During a May 2003 state visit to Washington DC, President Arroyo requested U.S. assistance in conducting a strategic assessment of the Philippine defense system. This led to a follow-up JDA and formulation of recommendations addressing deficiencies found in the Philippine defense structure.
The results of the 2003 JDA were devastating. The JDA findings revealed that the AFP was only partially capable of performing its most critical missions. Moreover, the results pointed overwhelmingly toward institutional and strategic deficiencies as being the root cause of most of the shortcomings. A common thread in all: the lack of strategy-based planning that would focus DND/AFP on addressing priority threats and link capability requirements with the acquisition process.
Specifically, the 2003 JDA revealed critical deficiencies in the following specific areas:
- Systemic approach to policy planning
- Personnel management and leadership
- Defense expenditures and budgeting
- Supply and maintenance
- Quality assurance for existing industrial base
- Infrastructure support
During a reciprocal visit to the Philippines in October 2003 by U.S. President Bush, he and President Arroyo issued a joint statement expressing their commitment to embark upon a multi-year plan to implement the JDA recommendations. The Philippine Defense Reform (PDR) Program is the result of that agreement.
The JDA specifically identified 65 key areas and 207 ancillary areas of concern. These were reduced to ten broad-based and inter-related recommendations that later became the basis for what became known as the PDR Priority Programs. The ten are: 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
From the perspective of the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND), the framework for reforms is based on an environment of increasing economic prowess and a gradually decreasing threat level over time, and seeks to make the following improvements: 1. Address AFP capability gaps to enable the AFP to effectively fulfill its mission. 2. Implement capability for seamless interoperability by developing proficiency in the conduct of joint operations, eliminating crisis handleing by individual major services as done previously. 3. improve effectiveness of internal security operations. 4. Enhance capability to counter terrorism and other transSteps of the Philippines Defense Reform Programnational threats. 5. Provide sustainment and/or long-term viability of acquired capabilities. 6. Improve cost-effectiveness of operations. 7. Improve accountability and transparency in the DND. 8. Increase professionalism in the AFP through reforms in areas such as promotions, assignments, and training. 9. Increase involvement of AFP in the peace process.
According to the goals stated in the Philippines Defense Reform Handbook:, “The PDR serves as the overall framework to re-engineer our systems and re-tool our 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 for the expeditious implementation of defense projects and the speedy response to security threats while promoting transparency, impartiality, and accountability in government transactions. Executive Order 240, creating the Office of the Undersecretary of Internal Control in the DND, mandated in part to institutionalize reforms in the procurement and fund disbursement systems in the AFP and the DND. On 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 and defining workflow and decision-making processes.
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 assumptioned that the 18-year span of reform would encompass a period of steady rise in economic growth coupled with equally steady decline in the military threat from terrorists and separatists. Neither of these projections have proven 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. Worse, the threat situation in the Philippines had not improved significantly, or as in the case of the Sulu Archipelago, was deteriorating.
During the Arroyo presidency, deliberate ‘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, and gave U.S. observers a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ impression of the program. As of 2010, U.S. observers were uncertain whether Arroyo’s successor, Benigno Aquino III, chosen in Philippine Presidential elections on May 10, 2010, will continue the tradition of rapid turnover of senior leadership.
U.S. observers have reported that overall progress of the PDR is unmistakable and has clearly struck a wider swath of the Philippine defense establishment than originally hoped. However, they see some troubling signs that the depth of the PDR’s impact may not be as significant as originally desired. For example, the Philippine legislature continues to significantly underfund the DND and AFP, currently at .9 percent of GDP, compared to an average of 2 percent world-wide, and a 4 percent outlay by the U.S. Even with full implementation of all the PDR’s programs and recommendations, the defense establishment would not be able to sustain itself at current funding levels. While this can be made up by future outlays, as of 2010 observers see no outward sign the legislature is planning to do so. One U.S. observer likened PDR process to the progress of a Jeepney on a busy Manila avenue — explaining, “a Jeepney moves at its own pace, stops unexpectedly, frequently changes passengers, moves inexplicably and abruptly right and left in traffic, but eventually arrives safely.” President Aquino has promised to implement the PDR program. As of 9 March 2011, a major Philippine news organization tracking performance on his promises evaluated that one as “To Be Determined.”
Capacity to Handle Threats
In 2007, The Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, reported that the AFP is one of the weakest military forces in Southeast Asia, saying that as the country’s primary security threats are land-based—separatist, communist insurgent and terrorist groups—the army has received priority funding, and that the operational effectiveness of the Philippine Navy (PN) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has suffered accordingly, leaving the country’s sea lanes largely unprotected. In 2008, The Irrawaddyreported a statement by General Alexander B. Yano, then Chief of Staff of the AFP, that the Philippine military cannot fully defend the country from external threats due to a lack of weapons and a preoccupation with crushing the long-running communist and Muslim insurgencies. Yano went on to say that a more ambitious modernization of the ill-equipped navy and air force to better guard the country from external threats will have to wait, saying, “To be very frank with you, our capability as far as these aspects are concerned is a little deficient,” and “We cannot really defend all these areas because of a lack of equipment.”
Since 1951, a Mutual Defense Treaty has been in effect between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States.
Contents come from Wikipedia.