The Philippines has a strong military and police presence. It’s obvious everywhere you go in the Philippines especially with the military and police personnel displaying guns. The intent is to reduce crime and make citizens feel safe. As a foreigner visiting the Philippines for the first time it may make you feel a bit uncomfortable until you realize that this is the way the Philippines operates.
The following information about both the military and police in the Philippines should help you gain a better understanding of each and how each serves to protect citizens and alleviate your concerns.
The military in the Philippines is called the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The AFP consists of 3 primary service branches: the Army, the Navy (which includes Marines), and the Air Force.
The Philippine Coast Guard also serves as an attached service of the AFP in wartime.
The President of the Philippines (President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr.) is the Commander-in-Chief.
The AFP was founded in December 1935.
Military age is 18-56.
Military service is entirely voluntary in the Philippines.
Currently approximately 125,000 active military personnel in the AFP and 180,000 reserve personnel.
The annual budget for the AFP is $3.6 Billion USD which is approximately .9% of the Philippines GDP.
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.
These three major services are unified under a Chief of Staff who normally holds the rank of General/Admiral. He is assisted by The Vice Chief of Staff, and The Deputy 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), as well as the AFP Inspector General (Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral) and Unified Command Commanders(Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral).
Meanwhile, the Chief of Staff of the AFP is also assisted by the following office holders carry the rank of Major General/Rear Admiral: The Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps.
Coat of Arms
The Coat of Arms of the AFP is a symbol of the military’s commitment to protect the nation, uphold its democratic values, and honor the country’s history and diverse culture.
The following are the uniforms that are worn by the Philippine Army and the ones you will most likely see military personnel wearing.
The military uniform is a symbol of authority that must be used properly and with dignity. The unauthorized wearing by civilians impacts negatively on the image of the Philippine Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, apart from security implications, therefore should not occur by civilians.
The following are battledress identification patches …
Rank & Insignia
The following are the rank and identification of each for each of the different branches of service …
These ranks, heavily inspired by those of the United States Armed Forces, are officially used in the Philippine Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The ranks are more frequently referred and addressed in English rather than in Spanish or Tagalog/Filipino, since English is the working language within the Armed Forces.
LEARN MORE: Armed Forces of the Philippines Website
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is the armed, civilian, national police force in the Philippines.
The PNP has 191,000 personnel.
The Filipino word for police is pulisya or pulis.
There are 14 regional Command Centers for the PNP.
The official website of the Philippine National Police is pnp.gov.ph
The top ranking officials with oversight and administrative responsibilities over the PNP are:
- President of the Philippines
- Secretary of the Interior and Local Government
- Chief of the Philippine National Police
There are several operational units within the PNP, the following is a list of them.
Aviation Security Group (AVSEGROUP)
This group provides security to all airports throughout the country.
Special Action Force (SAF)
This group is a mobile strike force or a reaction unit to augment regional, provincial, municipal and city police force for civil disturbance control, internal security operations, hostage-taking rescue operations, search and rescue in times of natural calamities, disasters and national emergencies and other special police operations such as ant-hijacking, anti-terrorism, explosives and ordnance disposal. On a special note, the PNP Air Unit is placed under the supervision of SAF.
Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)
This group monitors, investigates, prosecutes all crimes involving economic sabotage, and other crimes of such magnitude and extent as to indicate their commission by highly placed or professional criminal syndicates and organizations. It also conducts organized- crime –control, all major cases involving violations of the revised penal Code, violators of SPECIAL LAWS assigned to them such as Anti-hijacking, Anti-carnapping and Cyber crimes among others and atrocities committed by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)/New People’s Army (NPA)/National Democratic Front (NDF).
Maritime Group (MG)
This group is responsible to perform all police functions over Philippine territorial waters, lakes, and rivers along coastal areas to include ports and harbors and small islands for the security and the sustainable development of the maritime environment.
Intelligence Group (IG)
Philippine National Police boat on the Iloilo River, Iloilo City
This group serves as the intelligence and counter-intelligence op of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) This group provides scientific and technical, investigative aide and support to the PNP and other investigative agencies. It also provides crime laboratory examination, evaluation and identification of physical evidence gathered at the crime scene with primary emphasis on medical, biological and physical nature.
Police Security and Protection Group (PSPG)
This group provides security to government vital installations, government officials, visiting dignitaries and private individuals authorized to be given protection.
PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG)
This Group is responsible for the implementation of pertinent laws on cybercrimes and anti-cybercrime campaigns of the PNP.
Police-Community Relations Group (PCRG)
This group undertakes and orchestrates Police Community Relations programs and activities in partnership with concerned government agencies, the community, and volunteer organizations in order to prevent crime and attain a safe and peaceful environment.
Highway Patrol Group (HPG)
This group enforces the traffic laws and regulations, promote safety along the highways, enhances traffic safety consciousness through inter- agency cooperation concerning Police Traffic Safety Engineering, Traffic Safety Education and Traffic Law enforcement functions and develops reforms in the crime prevention aspect against all forms of lawlessness committed along National Highway involving the use of motor vehicles.
Civil Security Group (CSG
This group regulates business operations and activities of all organized private detectives, watchmen, security guards/agencies and company guard forces. It also supervises the licensing and registration of firearms and explosives.
PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG)
This Group serves as the primary unit of the PNP in addressing kidnapping menace in the country and in handling hostage situations.
Internal Affairs Service
The PNP created a national Internal Affairs Service (IAS) on June 1, 1999. It is an organization within the structure of the PNP and one of its tasks is to help the Chief institute reforms to improve the image of the police force through assessment, analysis and evaluation of the character and behavior of the PNP personnel. It is headed by the Inspector General.
Philippine National Police Academy
The Philippine National Police Academy is located at Camp Gen. Mariano N. Castaneda, Silang, Cavite and is the premier training academy for the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Jail Management & Penology and Bureau of Fire Protection.
National Operations Center (NOC)
The National Operations Center (NOC) is at Camp Crame. The NOC is the hub and nerve of this facility.
Regional Police Offices manage and administer Police Stations within the various regions of the Philippines, each of which include several provinces and independent cities. Each unit exercises independent control over all police units within their areas of operation and attached units of the PNP National Headquarters are ordered to assist these Regional Offices. The National Capital Region Police Office is one such regional office.
The following is a photo of the various uniforms worn by police personnel in the Philippines.
The following is how to identify an official police officer uniform in the Philippines.
The same holds true for police uniforms as it does for military uniforms … they are a symbol of authority that must be used properly and with dignity. The unauthorized wearing by civilians impacts negatively on the image of the Philippine National Police, apart from security implications, therefore should not occur by civilians.
Rank & Insignia
The following is the current rank and insignia of PNP personnel.
Know Your Rights in the Philippines
The Philippines overall is a very safe place. Like anywhere in the world, there must be law enforcement personnel to ensure that a community remains orderly and safe.
Due to the population density, there appears to be more of a military and police presence than other parts of the world.
Just remember that the military and police are present to ensure order, detour crime, and ensure your safety. The PNP serves the people and not a dictatorial military government. The Philippines is a democratic republic like the USA and you have rights … mainly the right to be treated respectfully and fairly at all times.
The following are tips for interacting with both the Police & Military personnel in the Philippines:
- Always remain calm and cool.
- Show all police & military personnel respect.
- Do not argue with the police or the military.
- Don’t panic. Report misconduct later.
- Police & Military can lie. Don’t get tricked.
- Don’t agree to a search. Ever.
- Don’t admit to anything. Remain silent.
- Ask for a lawyer or representative from your embassy.
- Film the situation in case it is needed as evidence later.
- Don’t just wait. Ask: Am I free to leave?
The police and military in the Philippines are there to help you, to protect you, and keep you safe. They are not to be feared … instead they should be appreciated for their service to the public.