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MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Patricia Licuanan is not yet sold on the proposed revival of the mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in higher education.
Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo earlier said there was "consensus" among Cabinet officials after Presindet Rodrigo Duterte threw his support for the proposal.
While she did the presentation on the ROTC before the Cabinet, Licuanan on Friday, August 5, clarified that CHED did not initiate the proposal but was only made to report on it after Duterte mentioned the program in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
"I really would need more information. I really feel that the first two action points are very important, but we accept the fact that there is a strong support for it," she said, referring to CHED's list of possible options for strengthening ROTC:
But judging from that Cabinet meeting, Licuanan said the proposal will "inevitably" move forward.
"Realistically, [Duterte] wants it, but I don't know if he will push [for] it right away, but we might as well do the groundwork," she added.
The mandatory ROTC was abolished in 2002 after an investigation showed that a University of Santo Tomas student was murdered after he exposed alleged corruption in the ROTC.
In 2002, ROTC was made optional and voluntary through Republic Act 9163 or the NSTP Act of 2001.
"The major points I think for ROTC is the need for a reserve force and that can be called upon during times of emergencies – not just war, but various types of emergencies, and we do not have that," Licuanan said.
But given the history of the mandatory ROTC, she noted that those in favor of the proposal will have to answer one question.
"How will this mandatory ROTC be different from the way it was before, and how can we strengthen it so that the program is not just marching around under the hot sun, but...it really develops certain skills that you need in a reserve force?"
CHED is already forming technical working groups that will study the proposal and the implementation of the existing NSTP law.
"I fully subscribe to the fact that developing love of country and patriotism can be achieved in many ways, and not just through ROTC," Licuanan said.
Duterte 'didn't go through ROTC'
During his first SONA, the President urged the strengthening of the ROTC program "to instill love of country and good citizenship".
Licuanan recalled that during their Cabinet meeting, the President himself confessed he didn't go through ROTC.
"He was able to avoid it. He was asked also: 'So how then did you develop your love of country, obviously you didn't need ROTC for that?'" she recounted.
She pointed out that bills proposing for the return of mandatory ROTC passed during the 16th Congress "so it looks as if things are moving in that direction."
"The discussion will continue, and we cannot make any judgment [from] that first meeting, but my sense is that the President will push it, and therefore it will move forward."
She has yet to hear the thoughts of more stakeholders from the education sector, but Licuanan expects these to come out once Congress starts legislating and conducting public consultations on the proposal. – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.