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Military Organization



    On 21 December 1935, President Manuel L. Quezon signed Commonwealth Act No. 1 which became the legal basis for the organization of the Army of the Philippines. General Douglas McArthur and Majors Dwight D. Eisenhower and James B. Ord were responsible for the planning of the initial structure of the national defense system.

     With the issuance of Executive Order No. 11 on 11 January 1936, President Quezon caused the designation of Jose delos Reyes, an retired Philippine Constabulary Colonel, as Acting Chief of Staff following his call to active military service. On the same day, delos Reyes was appointed Brigadier General, and had Brigadier General Basilio J. Valdes and Colonel Guillermo B. Francisco as Acting 1st and 2nd Assistant Chiefs of Staff, respectively.

     The PC became the nucleus of the Regular Force of the Army which conceived as a “citizen army.” The organization had a small Regular Force backed up by a large Reserve Force of trained male Filipino citizens. Training began in January 1937 with an average number of 40,000 men to be trained each year. By the end of the ten-year Commonwealth period in 1946, there could have been a trained Reserve Force of 400,000 officers and men to be distributed to infantry division that were to be stationed in the ten (10) military districts.

     When war came to our shores on 8 December 1941, the Philippines had already mustered one (1) Regular Division and ten (10) Reserve Divisions, all of which had been activated and inducted into the US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). The USAFFE was under the command of General McArthur who was recalled to active duty on 26 July 1941 by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The activation and induction of all organized military forces of the Philippines continued until December 1941.

     The Filipino and American defenders were ordered to withdraw to the mountain fastness of Bataan to put up a last-ditch resistance. However, because of the superiority in number and arms of the invading Japanese Imperial Forces under General Masaharu Homma, the defenders had to capitulate. Bataan fell on 9 April 1942. Many had fallen on the way, while thousands of others survived just to join the dreaded “death march” to Capas, Tarlac. Thereafter, the Japanese laid siege on Corregidor, the last stronghold of the Filipino-American defenders. Like Bataan, Corregidor had the same fate. It fell on 6 May 1942.

     On these two (2) battlegrounds, many heroic tales had been etched by both Filipinos and Americans. Their feats of valor had all been intricately woven into the fabric of the country’s rich military history.

     After the organized resistance on Bataan and Corregidor, many officers and men of the Army chose not to surrender, but joined the numerous guerilla outfits that had practically mushroomed throughout the country. They continued to fight the occupying Japanese forces until 1945 when World War II drew to a close.

     The post-war period saw some epochal developments within the Philippine Army which had been reactivated by President Sergio Osmena with Maj. Gen. Basilio J. Valdes as Chief of Staff. In 1947, it was renamed the National Defense Forces. A year later, the ten (10) Military Districts were deactivated to pave the way for the activation of the four (4) Military Areas. Not long after, the four (4) PC zones were likewise activated, and having the same territorial jurisdiction as those covered by the Military Areas.

     It was during this period when the National Defense Forces was actively engaged in fighting the armed elements of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, the Hukbong Mapaglaya ng Bayan (HMB). For this punitive campaign, seven (7) Sector Commands and twenty-six (26) Battalion Combat Teams were organized and activated. These hard-hitting Army contingents had prevented the escalation of the Huk rebellion into a full-scale unconventional warfare that could have sapped the nation’s resources. The dissident uprising came to an abrupt end with the capture of some ranking members of the CPP’s political bureau in 1951.

     In 1950, at the outbreak of the Korean War, the Philippines sent the 10th, 20th, 19th, 14th and 2nd BCTs to help stem the communist tide in South Korea. They served with distinction in this war-ravaged nation until 1953. In the same year (1950), the National Defense Forces was re-designated Armed Forces of the Philippines. At the same time, the four (4) Major Services – PA, PC, PAF and PN were activated. This was necessary o achieve better performance and more effective employment of resources.

     When the Republic of South Vietnam was confronted by an internal security problem poised by the Viet Cong Guerillas from the North Vietnam, the Philippine government sent in 1966 a Philippine Civic Action Group, Vietnam or PHILCAGV, to undertake extensive civic action work until 1969.

     In the meantime, the 51st Engineer Brigade was organized and activated in 1966 to become a major component of the Army. This was followed some two (2) years later by the activation of the 52nd Engineer Brigade to undertake infrastructure work in the Visayas and Mindanao.

     In 1966, the PC Metropolitan Command was activated to help the local police forces in their anti-crime drive. By then, there was an upsurge of criminal activities in the metropolitan area that prompted higher authorities to form this unit. There was a major development in the AFP in 1970. This was the activation of the 5th Infantry Brigade (Separate) of the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Infantry Brigade (Separate), 3rd Infantry Brigade (Separate) and the 4 th Infantry Division, all of which became major elements of the Army. These units grew out of the Military Area Commands which were deactivated. Meanwhile, the office of the Chief of Communications-Electronics at General Headquarters was reorganized. This was followed by the re-designation of the Victoriano Luna General Medical Hospital into the Victoriano Luna Medical Center.

    Some organizational changes took place in 1971. In 1972, the command of the AFP was passed on from General Manuel Yan to General Romeo Espino. The new Major Service commanders were the following: Brig Gen. Rafael Zagala, PA; Brig. Gen Fidel V. Ramos, PC; Brig. Gen. Jose Rancudo, PAF; and Commodore Hilario Ruiz, PN. At the same time, the AFP created the Southwest Command, Northeast Command, and Central Mindanao Command in response to the Unified Command Concept. It was only later when the Western Command was organized and activated.

     This was the existing AFP set-up when martial law was declared in September 1972.

     In later years, the thirteen (13) Regional Unified Commands came into being to achieve better coordination and cooperation among the diverse elements of the AFP. Currently under the new leadership of the AFP, the Northern and Southern Luzon Commands are existing as distinct major components of the AFP.



     Let us examine more closely the organizational framework of the AFP as it now exists. But, first of all, mention must be made of the fact that like an enterprise in the civilian business world, the AFP has a hierarchical or pyramidal type of organization. This concept is exemplified as follows.

     At the apex of the hierarchy or pyramid is General Headquarters, which is the command and control mechanism. It provides overall direction and control of the AFP, and it also formulates plans and programs for the guidance of the Major Services and other units on training, logistics and tactical and special services.

     The General Headquarters operates directly under the AFP Chief of Staff who executes the President’s commands functions in relation to military strategy, tactics and operation. Under our Constitution, the President of the Republic of the Philippines is the Commander-in-Chief of the AFP. He is also the immediate adviser of the Secretary of National Defense, and is responsible in the planning, development, and execution of the national defense program as promulgated by the Secretary of National Defense. In real terms, the Chief of Staff is the Commanding General of the AFP.

     Providing the necessary expertise and assistance to the AFP Chief of Staff in the execution of his command functions are the following: Vice Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff and heads of the Joint, Technical, Special, Personal and Administrative Staffs. The AFP Vice Chief of Staff is the principal assistant of the Chief of Staff, while the Deputy Chief of Staff exercises overall supervision over the joint, technical, special and administrative staffs. The Secretary of the Joint Staff serves as the Executive Officer of the Chief of Staff, Vice Chief of Staff, and the Deputy Chief of Staff.

     The Joint or Coordinating Staff group at the General Headquarters provides the expertise in broad areas such as, personnel administration, intelligence, operations and training, logistics plans and programs, comptrollership, civil-military operations, education and training, material development, and reservists and retiree affairs. There are actually ten (10) offices belonging to this group and each office is headed by a deputy Chief of Staff.

     There are three (3) offices under the Personal Staff group. These are the Offices of the Inspector General, Public Information Office and AFP Sergeant Major.

     Lumped together under the Technical, Special and Administrative Staff group are the following: The Adjutant General, The Surgeon General, The Chief of Ordinance and Chemical Services, The Judge Advocate General, The Chief of Chaplain, The Provost Marshall General, and The Chief Nurse.

     Also operating under the General Headquarters are different units and offices under one (1) broad category. These are classified as AFP-wide Support and Separate Units. Among these are the following: Metropolitan Citizen Military Training Command, AFP Medical Center, AFP Mapping Center, AFP Logistics Command, Philippine Military Academy, AFP Finance Center, AFP Computer Systems Command, 51st Engineer Brigade, Research and Development Center and Philippine Coast Guard.

     The second layer in the AFP’s hierarchical structure comprises of four (4) Major Services. These are the Philippine Army, Philippine Constabulary, Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy. These Major Services are organized like General Headquarters, AFP, where they have their Coordinating, technical, Special, Administrative and Personal Staffs. They have also their major components or elements.

     As a typical example, the Philippine Army has several infantry divisions and specialized units as major components. The infantry divisions are the 1st Infantry (Tabak), 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th. Operating directly under these divisions are the infantry brigades and battalions. The Army’s specialized units are the Light Armored Brigade, Service Support Brigade, and First Scout Ranger Regiment.

     In the Philippine Constabulary, its major components are known as PC Regional Commands. There are thirteen (13) such units. They are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th PC regional Commands. These are employed in the government’s counter-insurgency campaign from the north to the south. The 13th, the National Capital Regional Command (CAPCOM), formerly known as the PC Metropolitan Command, takes care of the National Capital Region.

     The Philippine Air Force has several tactical air divisions and wings as its major elements. It has also its own combat group which, since its inception, had been thrown into the anti-insurgency drive in cooperation with other operative segments of the AFP. In addition, it has an air reserve command to look and take care of the development of its reserve forces.

     There are six (6) major components of the Philippine Navy. These are the Naval Shore Establishment, Naval Operating Force, and Philippine Marine Division, Philippine Coast Guard, Naval Defense Command, Military Sealift and Terminal Command, and Naval Training Command. It has also several special units tasked with special missions to perform.

     Finally, we have the third and last layer in the AFP’s organizational set-up. This is made up of the North and South Luzon Commands, the Southern Command and the Western Command. The North and South Luzon Commands assumed operational control over all Regional Unified Commands within the two (2) geographical areas. Regional Unified Commands No. 9, 10, 11 and 12 have been deactivated, thus, paving the way for the Southern Command to assume overall operational as well as administrative control and supervision over all military units in the area.



     Before we go into the mission and functions of the AFP, let us define some terms to enable us to understand their implications. This is to avoid confusions that may arise.

MISSION – it is the delicate task assigned to an individual or unit of the armed services. To suit our purpose, the statement of the AFP’s mission must be made in clear and unequivocal terms why the armed forces exist.

FUNCTION – a function is the proper action by which a unit fulfills its reason for being.


Now, we go into the statement of the mission and functions of the AFP which are as follows:

    To uphold the sovereignty, support the Constitution, and defend the territory of the Republic of the Philippines.

    To advance the national aims, interests and policies.

    To plan for the organization, maintenance, development and deployment of AFP active and reserve forces for national security.

    To perform such other duties as the President may direct.


    In recent years, however, this broad statement of the mission and functions of the AFP had to be drastically changed to attune to the pragmatic nature of the times. In conformity with this reality, the necessity of spelling out in clear terms, some objectives were urgently felt to accomplish the AFP’s mission. The three (3) broad objectives were:

        To develop an Armed Forces, highly-trained and well-equipped, that is capable of eliminating and controlling subversive and insurgent elements, and assisting local police forces in maintaining law and order with special emphasis on developing a high degree of mobility and a fast modern communication system.

        To develop a unilateral defense capability to counter limited aggression from without, to include the building of a body of well-trained reservists that can be mobilized rapidly to augment and support the Regular Force.

         To continue strengthening our ties with our allies under existing bilateral and multilateral security arrangements for the purpose of developing an adequate defense system in case of an all-out aggression by a major power, without sacrificing our dignity as a sovereign nation.


    Today, the AFP has a two-fold mission: that of safeguarding the nation, and in assisting in national development.