Duterte revives call to pass bill on mandatory ROTC

MANILA, Philippines – After failing to pass it in the 17th Congress, President Rodrigo Duterte once again called on lawmakers to ensure the passage of a bill that would make the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program mandatory for students in Grades 11 and 12.

"We expect support for the legislative initiatives aimed at strengthening defense-related systems such as...the revival of the mandatory ROTC for grades 11 and 12. Very important," Duterte said.

In his SONA 2019, Duterte reiterated his support for ROTC as he listed these among measures that would "strengthen" the defense of the country alongside the proposed national defense act and the uniformed personnel separation retirement pension bill. 

"Itong mga bata ngayon (The Filipino youth now), they are bereft of patriotism and the love of country. Balik sila dito (They should go back to this). I think the military training will be good for everybody," Duterte said. 

Mandatory ROTC had been listed among the priority bills of the Duterte administration in 2017. Three years into his presidency, a bill on ROTC has yet to be passed by Congress.

Duterte himself wants ROTC to become mandatory for students. But the President had also claimed in public speeches that he had tried to skip ROTC as a student.

As early as 2015, Duterte had expressed his support for ROTC, saying it could help augment government forces in the face of Chinese aggression in the disputed West Philippine Sea. Later on, Duterte threw his support behind the program once more saying it could "instill discipline and patriotism among young Filipinos."

The House of Representatives had passed in May 2019 its version of the measure, which sought to make military training mandatory for all students in Grades 11 and 12, in all senior high schools in public and private educational institutions. (READ: DepEd supports mandatory ROTC – Briones)

The Senate did not. Despite Malacañang's last-minute certification of the bill as urgent in the 17th Congress, the Senate said it had no time left to pass the controversial measure as the chamber needed more time to debate the bill.

Some legislators had argued that requiring ROTC for students would expose them to corruption.

ROTC was previously implemented at the college level, but it was scrapped in 2002 after an investigation showed that a University of Santo Tomas student was murdered after he exposed alleged corruption in the program. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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