Senate of the Philippines

Dela Rosa irked by DND’s ‘real talk’ about mandatory ROTC

Bonz Magsambol
Dela Rosa irked by DND’s ‘real talk’ about mandatory ROTC

LAWMAKER. Senator Ronald dela Rosa during the resumption of the senate hearing on mandatory ROTC on January 25, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

'Pabor po kami sa mandatory ROTC program [but] certain critical requirements must be addressed,' says Defense Undersecretary Franco Nemesio Gacal

MANILA, Philippines – Concluding that the Department of National Defense (DND) was not keen on taking the lead in running a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) mandatory program for college students, an annoyed Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa suggested to drop discussing the matter altogether.

The senator was irked during a Senate hearing Wednesday, January 25, by the response of a defense official, who implied that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) may not be ready for the enormous task.

In his reality check, DND Undersecretary Franco Nemesio Gacal said that to implement a mandatory ROTC, the military would need to tap 9,000 to 10,000 personnel for about 2,400 colleges and universities.

“Pabor po kami sa mandatory ROTC program [but] certain critical requirements must be addressed. Kung i-implement natin ang basic ROTC program na mandatory, kaya ba ng AFP? Kapag sinabi natin na kaya ng AFP, we talk about manpower, we talk about financial resources, we talk about logistics and facilities,” Gacal said.

(We are in favor of mandatory ROTC program but certain requirements must be addressed. If we’re gong to implement the basic mandatory ROTC, can the AFP do it? When we say, AFP’s capability, we talk about manpower, we talk about financial services, we talk about logistics and facilities.)

“To run this program, the requirement is enormous. Let’s say, we have about 2,400 HEIs (higher education institutions), if you will put four personnel, you need 9,000 to 10,000 people. You need 10,000 military personnel to run this program,” he added.

Gacal was keeping it real, but Dela Rosa would not have any of it. The senator, who was a former chief of the Philippine National Police and was a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, said he did not like the attitude of the DND official.

“Kung ganoon ang attitude ng defense establishment natin, i-hinto na natin ito. Balik na tayo sa NSTP (National Service Training Program), kapag ganoon ang gusto ‘nyo. Pinag-uusapan natin ‘to ROTC, ROTC, tapos kayo pala sa defense, ayaw pala ‘nyo,” Dela Rosa said.

(If our defense establishment has this kind of attitude, we just stop this. Let’s go back to NSTP if that’s what you want. We’re talking about ROTC, then you there at the defense unit, is not in favor of it.)

“Gusto n’yo pala ibigay ang trabaho sa CHED (Commission on Higher Education), sa TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority). Huwag na, tama na ito. Tama na ang usapan natin dito. Ayaw ‘nyo pala i-karga sa shoulders ‘nyo ang trabaho ng ROTC…. parang lukewarm kayo rito, nagdadalawang isip kayo, balik na lang tayo sa NSTP,” the senator said.

(You want to give the work to CHED, and TESDA. Let’s stop this. Let’s stop the discussion. You don’t want to put the ROTC work in your shoulders. You’re lukewarm about this, having second thoughts. Let’s go back to NSTP instead.)

Currently a voluntary college program designed to produce military reservists, ROTC was previously a requirement at the college level. The government scrapped it in 2002 when an investigation on the 2001 murder of a University of Santo Tomas student found that the victim had exposed alleged corruption in the program.

Different version

In December, the House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to compel college students to undergo a two-year mandatory National Citizens Service Training (NCST), instead of ROTC.

The NCST’s curriculum will be focused on disaster response and management, survival and safety techniques, and civic duty inculcation. Its graduates will be incorporated in the AFP Reserve Force.

The proposal also seeks to institutionalize the four-year optional ROTC program, with a curriculum to be designed by the DND and the CHED.

CHED, which presented the idea to the Senate in November, described the proposed NCST as a “consensus bill” that would capture the intent of the President’s legislative priority to reform the National Service Training Program and revive the ROTC program.

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What is the ‘consensus bill’ that seeks mandatory NCST, optional ROTC?

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But the version discussed in the Senate on Wednesday was different. The Senate version proposed to make ROTC mandatory for college students.

In a tweet on Tuesday, January 24, the party-list Kabataan expressed its strong opposition on the Senate version of the bill, saying that its curriculum was focused on police and military training.

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte earlier expressed hopes that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr would include mandatory ROTC in his legislative agenda. During his first State of the Nation Address, Marcos included a mandatory ROTC among his legislative agenda.

The Vice President’s push for mandatory ROTC has also been met with criticism, with activist groups saying compulsory military service sends a strong message that “any dissent will be met with force.” –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.