Department of National Defense

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Department of
National Defense

Seal of the Department of National Defense

Established: March 22, 1897
Re-established: December 21, 1935
Organized: November 1, 1939
Secretary: Voltaire Gazmin
Budget: P106.9 billion (2012)

The Department of National Defense (DND) is the executive department of the Philippine government responsible for national security. Its main functions are to defend the state against internal and external threats and maintain law and order.



Even before its official creation in 1939, the history of the Department of National Defense can be traced way back to the Spanish period or even before they conquered the Philippines. It is manifested through able-bodied men of the village who were in charge of the protection of the community from hostile forces.

The Katipunan is considered to be the first military government that gave birth to the armed forces of the Philippines. Andres Bonifacio, founder of the secret society, appointed Teodoro Plata as the Secretary of War, and later on he was replaced by Emilio Riego de Dios as the Director of War when Emilio Aguinaldo usurped the presidency on 22 March 1897 during the Tejeros Convention.

The revolutionary government of Aguinaldo demonstrated the Filipino's capability to organize an army to fight colonial masters until the arrival of the United States forces.

The Philippine Commission adopted Act No. 175 on 4 July 1901, creating an insular police force in charge of maintaining peace and order. The next month, the Philippine Constabulary was officially constituted. Its main function was to track down the guerilla leaders and other remnants of the Revolutionary Army.

During his presidency, Manuel Quezon presented the National Defense Act formulated by General Douglas MacArthur to the Assembly of the new Commonwealth government . The land defense at that time consisted only of professional Philippine regular army of some 350 officers and 5,000 men. On 11 January 1936, President Quezon appointed Brig. Gen. Jose delos Reyes as acting Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army by virtue of Executive Order No. 11. This also paved the way to the inclusion of the Philippine Constabulary in the regular Army of the Philippines, only to be withdrawn again in 1938.

The Department of National Defense was formally created on 1 November 1939, limiting Gen. MacArthur's powers in ordering munitions, enrolling trainees and entering into contracts for the construction of military facilities without the approval of President Quezon and National Defense Secretary Teofilo Sison.

In January of 1941, the intelligence officer (G-2) of the Philippine Department had recommended to his superior in Washington D.C. that a Far Eastern Command be created, with the commander of the Philippine Department as the designated commander. It does not appear that this idea was seriously considered until Douglas MacArthur suggested to the Army Chief of Staff that such a command be created with himself as the Far Eastern Commander.

The United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) was a military command formed by the United States in the Philippines during World War II to counter the threat posed by the Imperial Japanese Army. Major General MacArthur served as its commander. Its headquarters was established on 26 July 1941, the same time Presidential Order (6 Fed. Reg. 3825) was issued by the President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt . This called the Philippine Commonwealth Army into the service of the Armed Forces of the United States.

During World War II, Several Filipino and American soldiers suffered in the Death March. On 5 July 1945, Gen. MacArthur came back to the Philippines and liberated the country, declaring the end of war in the Philippines.

Gen. MacArthur turned over the powers and functions of the government to President Sergio Osmeña after the war. Osmeña began investigations on collaboration charges with the help of Tomas Confessor, wartime civil governor of Iloilo and a guerilla leader of Panay, who had become his interim Secretary of Defense Eventually. All the accused were granted amnesty.

On August 31, 1950, President Elpidio Quirino appointed Ramon Magsaysay as the new Secretary of Defense. His strategy in making the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP ) made him popular that Magsaysay won the Presidential elections in 1953.

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, the policy-making and advisory body for matters connected with national defense.

Functions and Responsibilities

The main functions of the Department of National Defense are to defend the state against internal and external threats and maintain law and order. The department's primary bureau, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (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.

DND is also tasked with the responsibility of providing the necessary protection of the State against external and internal threats; directing, planning and supervising the National Defense Program; maintaining law and order throughout the country; and performing other functions as may be provided for by the law.

Attached Bureaus


In 1999, the Department of National Defense had begun conceptualizing the Philippine Defense Reform Program (PDR) as recommended by the Joint Defense Assessment (JDA). In December 2008, a new PDR Management and Execution System was instituted. The performance objectives and timelines of the 11 programs (which later became 12 with the inclusion of the integration of the Defense System of Management) as well as three high priority projects were approved.

Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin takes a direct hand in implementing systemic reforms in the defense establishment by taking charge of the PDR. He called on defense senior leaders and PDR Program Managers to complete the development of all reform projects within the year and to proceed as soon as possible to their full implementation and institutionalization in the whole defense establishment. Among the secretary's reform priorities is the institutionalization of DND’s integrated, multi-year defense planning system called Defense System of Management (DSOM), which he hopes to transform the whole defense establishment into a professional, capable and responsive institution of government that the Filipino people can be proud of.

List of Secretaries/Commissioners/Ministers/Liaison of National Defense

Name Term of Office President(s) Served Under
Emiliano Riego de Dios March 22November 1, 1897 Emilio Aguinaldo
Baldomero Aguinaldo July 15, 1898May 6, 1899 Emilio Aguinaldo
Mariano Trias May 7, 1899November 12, 1899 Emilio Aguinaldo
Teofilo Sison November 1, 1939July 15, 1941 Manuel L. Quezon
Manuel L. Quezon July 16December 10, 1941 In concurrent capacity as President
Jorge B. Vargas* December 11December 22, 1941 Manuel L. Quezon
Basilio J. Valdes December 23, 1941February 6, 1945 Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmena
Manuel A. Roxas December 23, 1941January 3, 1942 Manuel L. Quezon
Tomas Cabili February 27July 11, 1945 Sergio Osmeña
Alfredo Montelibano July 12, 1945May 27, 1946 Sergio Osmeña
Ruperto K. Kangleon May 28, 1946August 31, 1950 Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino
Ramon Magsaysay September 1, 1950February 28, 1953 Elpidio Quirino
Oscar T. Castelo March 1December 19, 1953 Elpidio Quirino
Ramon Magsaysay January 1May 14, 1954 In concurrent capacity as President
Sotero B. Cabahug May 14, 1954January 2, 1956 Ramon Magsaysay
Eulogio B. Balao January 3, 1956August 28, 1957 Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos P. Garcia
Jesus M. Vargas August 28, 1957May 18, 1959 Carlos P. Garcia
Alejo S. Santos June 11, 1959December 3, 1961 Carlos P. Garcia
Macario Peralta, Jr. January 1, 1962December 30, 1965 Diosdado Macapagal
Ferdinand E. Marcos December 31, 1965January 20, 1967 In concurrent capacity as President
Ernesto S. Mata January 21, 1967February 3, 1970 Ferdinand E. Marcos
Juan Ponce Enrile February 9, 1970August 27, 1971 Ferdinand E. Marcos
Ferdinand E. Marcos August 28, 1971January 3, 1972 In concurrent capacity as President
Juan Ponce Enrile January 4, 1972November 23, 1986 Ferdinand E. Marcos, Corazon Aquino
Rafael M. Ileto November 23, 1986January 21, 1988 Corazon Aquino
Fidel V. Ramos January 22, 1988July 18, 1991 Corazon Aquino
Renato S. De Villa July 20, 1991September 15, 1997 Corazon Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos
Fortunato Abat September 16, 1997June 30, 1998 Fidel V. Ramos
Orlando S. Mercado June 30, 1998January 19, 2001 Joseph Ejercito Estrada
Orlando S. Mercado January 22January 25, 2001 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Angelo T. Reyes March 19, 2001August 29, 2003 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo September 1October 2, 2003 In concurrent capacity as President
Eduardo R. Ermita October 3, 2003August 24, 2004 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Avelino J. Cruz, Jr. August 25, 2004November 30, 2006 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo November 30, 2006February 1, 2007 In concurrent capacity as President
Hermogenes E. Ebdane, Jr. February 1July 1, 2007 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Norberto B. Gonzales July 1August 3, 2007 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. August 3, 2007November 15, 2009 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Voltaire Gazmin June 30, 2010 – Present Benigno S. Aquino III


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