House panels unite to make ROTC optional

By: Gabriel Pabico Lalu - Inquirer.net | December 07,2022 - 07:18 AM
Two House of Representatives panels will consolidate bills seeking for a mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) with a separate proposal for the creation of a citizens’ training program tertiary education systems — meaning that the term "mandatory" would be dropped.

Batasang Pambansa plenary. —MALACAÑANG FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Two House of Representatives panels will consolidate bills seeking a mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) with a separate proposal for creating a citizens’ training program in the tertiary education system — meaning that the term “mandatory” would be dropped.

During the joint hearing of the House Committee on higher and technical education and the Committee on basic education on Tuesday, it was agreed upon that House Bill (HB) No. 6486, filed by Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, would be the lead bill in consolidating all other bills calling for a mandatory ROTC.

Committee on basic education chair and Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo clarified to Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel, who contested the consolidation of the bills that Romualdez’s bill would be the lead hence the ROTC would no longer be mandatory.

“Para maliwanag ah (Just to clarify), the original motion was to consolidate the 27 bills filed on the subject matter of ROTC, but according to the motion, the primary bill will be the bill of the Speaker,” Romulo said.

“Meaning kung ‘yon ‘yong primary bill, ibig sabihin, hindi mandatory ang ROTC; secondly ang mandatory lang would be the NCST (National Citizens Service Training) (program) and all others will be merged, consolidated towards that bill,” he added.

(This means that if that is the primary bill, ROTC would not be mandatory; secondly, what would be mandatory only is the NCST and all other bills will be merged and consolidated towards that bill.)

Under HB No. 6468 of Speaker Romualdez, Majority Floor Leader, Zamboanga City 2nd District Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe, and Tingog party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre, the NCST Program would be institutionalized in all tertiary schools in the country, both public and private.

Both the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) would be required to implement the program, which will provide students “with practical and applicable knowledge and skills that are necessary, essential and ideal for survival, resilience, and providing service in times of local and national emergencies and disasters, both natural and man-made.”

“It shall instill in students the values of civic-mindedness, volunteerism and genuine service to others. It shall develop tertiary education students to be community crisis managers and leaders in times of emergencies and disasters,” the bill said.

“The NCST Program Curriculum shall ensure that students who finish the NCST shall have competencies in Civic Duty, Individual Survival and Safety Skills, Community/ Mass Emergency and Disaster Response and Management, and Citizen Soldier Training,” it added.

But resource persons from the youth sector, along with Manuel opposed the bill, saying that Romualdez’s proposal still contained trickles of militarism.  According to Manuel, a provision states that people with religious beliefs that go against the discharge or use of firearms may be exempted from the NCST.

This indicates, Manuel said, that firearm training is a standard or a default program of the NCST.

“Actually if we compare this (NCST) to other versions of the bill Mr. Chair, it is not like the others, but based on the fine print — like for example in Section 8 of the proposed bill, it was mentioned that people with religious beliefs that go against using firearms may be exempted from rendering service to the country,” he said.

“This means part of the default program is to teach how firearms are used, which means this mandatory program will have a military component which all students would take, for them to eventually become part of the AFP reserve force,” he added.

Supporters of the bill, meanwhile, clarified that firearm training does not necessarily mean military training.

There has been huge support from administration allies for placing a mandatory ROTC program, especially in the context of foreign intrusion in various parts of the country’s territorial waters.  No less than Education Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte pushed for the revival of ROTC to instill discipline among young Filipinos.

However, several critics also pointed out that the local setup should not be compared to other countries where rendering military service is required, as the Philippines is not engaged in any war with other nations.

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