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House approves bill requiring ROTC for Grades 11, 12

MANILA, Philippines – As it reopened session, the House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading the controversial bill making the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program mandatory for Grades 11 and 12. 

Legislators voted 167-4-0 in favor of House Bill (HB) 8961 on Monday, May 20, more than 3 months since they approved the measure on 2nd reading in February. 

The bill has a long way to go, however, as its Senate version remains pending at the committee level. It would have to go through successful 2nd and 3rd readings in the upper chamber before President Rodrigo Duterte may sign it into law. 

HB 8961 says the conduct of military training under ROTC "shall apply to all students in Grades 11 and 12 in all senior high schools in public and private educational institutions."

This means the military training would be required for both male and female students.

The goal behind the proposed two-year mandatory ROTC is "producing well-trained and prepared reservists for military and civic service."

"The ROTC training is aimed to instill patriotism, love of country, moral and spiritual virtues, and respect for human rights and adherence to the Constitution," states HB 8961.

But the bill also says "in no way should the ROTC be used for political gains, to teach and instill particular ideology, and as a mechanism for hazing and abuse." 

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

Why is mandatory ROTC opposed by some lawmakers? Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago posted on Facebook her opposition to HB 8961's passage in the House. (READ: Mandatory ROTC? How about no?)

"House passes on 3rd and final reading today the institutionalization of mandatory ROTC in Grades 11-12, railroaded without senior high school/K to 12 implementation review, and even without status report/resolution on the program's widespread cases of harassment, hazing, and corruption," said Elago, who said she will later file her written opposition to the bill.

Other legislators previously argued that requiring ROTC for students in Grades 11 and 12 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.

Who would be exempt? Under HB 8961, only students deemed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines surgeon general or his or her medical officer as physically or psychologically unfit for the ROTC program would be exempt, "in pursuance to the recommendation of the educational institutions where the concerned student is enrolled."

Also to be exempted are students who have undergone similar military training, varsity players in sports competitions, and those exempted by the Department of National Defense for other valid reasons. 

What would be the punishment for non-completion of the training? Any student who would not complete the mandatory ROTC program would not be allowed to graduate. This would also be a ground for compulsory military training. 

A school that would refuse to offer the required ROTC program would be subjected to "administrative sanctions" by the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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