MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Imee Marcos will not heed President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for the passage of a bill that would make the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program mandatory for students in Grades 11 and 12.
“‘Yung mandatory ROTC, hindi ko matanggap eh…for me, you really cannot force a kid to become a soldier,” the neophyte senator said in a Kapihan sa Senado session on Thursday, July 25.
(I really can’t accept mandatory ROTC…for me, you really can’t force a kid to become a soldier).
Instead, Marcos is pushing for a “Citizen Service Program” in grade school to college through Senate Bill 413. Marcos said that civic service could equally inspire patriotism and discipline in young people, particularly those who are in their formative years.
Marcos’ bill allows college students to train instead in community service, disaster preparedness, and environmental protection.
“You don’t need to be a soldier to show your love for the country. There are other ways,” she said, in a mix of English and Filipino.
On Friday, July 26, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) responded to Marcos, saying that the ROTC program does not make a student “ipso facto a soldier” but instead readies him or her to fulfill a “constitutionally mandated obligation.”
The AFP cited Article II, Section 4, which reads: “The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people. The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal, military or civil service.”
According to the AFP, the program prepares the youth “and capacitates them to respond to exigencies such as calamities and national emergencies.”
The AFP also insisted ROTC is needed “in these times more than ever” to instill values of “discipline, nationalism, respect for authorities, and love of country.”
In a separate statement, Marcos also said that making military training an option instead of a requirement respects United Nations Resolution 1261, which recognizes the long-term effects of armed conflict on children.
Duterte had been expressing his support for ROTC as early as 2015, when he said that the program could help government forces when they face Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
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.
The Senate, however, did not, despite Malacañang marking the bill as urgent in the 17th Congress. 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 a University of Santo Tomas student was murdered after exposing alleged corruption in the program. – Rappler.com