Rumors are swirling in the military about a possible leadership change only three months after Army Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro was installed as chief of staff.

Bacarro, who belonged to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class of 1988, actually replaced his classmate, Gen. Andres Centino, who took over from another classmate, Gen. Jose Faustino Jr.

Bacarro and Centino are among the few remaining members of PMA 1988 who remained in active duty. The military is now firmly under the control of PMA 1989. 

The three service commanders are from PMA 1989 — Rear Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr is the new navy flag officer-in-command; Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner is the army commander; and Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas is the air force commander.

There has been a smooth transition in the military leadership in the past despite the “revolving door” policy of past administrations that saw changes in the top leadership happen so often, sometimes lasting only three months.

Rodrigo Duterte had 11 chiefs of staff in six years, the same number former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had in nine years. But there were no less grumblings.

After dictator Ferdinand Marcos was removed from power in 1986, the government tried to insulate the armed forces from politics. Marcos had angered the professional soldiers who belonged to the military academies by favoring the promotion and appointments of non-PMA to the highest positions in the military.

Marcos had Generals Romeo Espino and Fabian Ver as chiefs of staff, bypassing highly qualified and respected officers, like Fidel Ramos who was a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point.

The idea of appointing a chief of staff with a fixed tour of duty was tried in 1988 when Ramos shed his uniform to become secretary of national defense. 

That year, the entire PMA class 1957 who remained in active duty was retired as a group, except for one who was named the replacement for Ramos, Gen. Renato de Villa who served as chief of staff until 1991.

He had the distinction of serving as chief of staff for three years.

Cory Aquino chose Rodolfo Biazon, the first Marine general and from the navy, to become chief of staff for three months. He was replaced by Army Gen. Lisandro Abadia, who was hailed the hero of the December 1989 coup for stopping rogue troops at the Logistics Command and replaced briefly Biazon as commander of defending troops in Camp Aguinaldo.

Ramos, who succeeded Aquino in 1992, retained Abadia and gave him a three-year tour of duty.

Abadia was succeeded by his classmate, Gen. Arturo Enrile, who had the distinction of getting extended in his active tour of duty because of the military’s role when the Philippines hosted for the first time the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 1996.

Enrile, who was appointed in April 1994, could have retired in June 1996 after reaching 56 years old, the mandatory retirement age for uniformed personnel in the military and police, but stayed on after APEC in November 1996.

The idea of senior military commanders with a fixed term of tour of duty was an excellent mechanism to insulate the organization from politics. The revolving door policy that started late in the Ramos administration politicized the process.

Military officers, once they reached the rank of colonel, started looking for political patrons to get promoted and appointed to juicy positions in the armed forces.

The patronage system causes rumblings within the officers’ corps when a highly connected but unqualified officer gets promoted ahead of the others or when appointed to a coveted position of power.

Before Duterte stepped down from power, he signed a law, Republic Act 11709, to grant the chief of staff and other senior military commanders a fixed tour of duty of three years, allowing them to retire at age 59 years old.

The vice chief of staff, the deputy chief of staff, the inspector general, the three service commanders and the seven area commanders were also given the same privileges. The superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy was given an extraordinary four years.

RA 11709 was supposed to remedy the much politicized revolving door policy in the military but three months after Bacarro was named chief of staff, the first general to enjoy the three-year tour under the law, troubles started to simmer in the organization.

First, Bacarro could not be promoted to four stars because his classmate, Centino, had not retired and continued to hold the rank of general until February when he turned 56 years old. 

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had forgotten about Centino when he appointed Bacarro in August as chief of staff, a month before he was due to retire. But his appointment allowed him to serve for three years.

There were some pressures from within and outside the military for Bacarro to step down, linking him to the disgraced executive secretary Vic Rodriguez.

Rodriguez’s replacement, Lucas Bersamin, a retired Supreme Court chief justice, wanted to purge the Marcos government of people who were appointed by Rodriguez to ensure loyalty to the administration.

There have been rumors Bacarro, a medal of valor awardee, could be axed before December as there had been clamor from other military officers to appoint a stronger and more effective chief of staff.

There has been so much jockeying for positions that an influential senator was rumored to be manipulating appointments in the military. The senator was very instrumental in the past administration regarding military and police appointments, including juicy contracts in the uniformed services.

The senator’s involvement in the current intramurals should be a cause of concern in the Marcos administration. It could be a recipe for unrest seen in the late dictator’s regime when professional soldiers mutinied against Marcos.

The Philippines needs stability within the armed forces, the only institution that can hold the country together. The country saw what happened in the late 1980s when the military was unhappy with its leaders.

Marcos should not allow military adventurism to take root again. The country does not need political and military instability that can fuel regime changes.

There are already so many problems within the government and a new cycle of coup d’etat is not needed.