education in the Philippines

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

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

CADETS IN FORMATION. Competing cadets in the Ultimate ROTC Challenge 2018 attend the opening ceremony prior to the start of their respective events. Photo from the Department of National Defense

Here's what we know so far about the proposed mandatory two-year NCST and optional four-year ROTC

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Tuesday, November 29, presented to the Senate a “consensus bill” that seeks to institutionalize for tertiary education students a mandatory two-year National Citizens’ Service Training program (NCST) and an optional four-year Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) curriculum.

CHED Director Spocky Farolan said that the consensus bill was crafted after a series of discussions on bills related to service training filed before the Congress.

He said that if students choose to pursue the ROTC program after completing the mandatory NCST program, they can complete the ROTC in just two years.

The CHED official said that the consensus bill would capture the intent of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. when he mentioned in his State of the Nation Address reforming the NSTP law and reviving the ROTC program. It can be recalled that the revival of the ROTC program was included in the priority legislation of the administration.

A voluntary college program designed to produce military reservists, ROTC was previously implemented 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.

Who are tertiary students?

Farolan said that they include undergraduate students degrees and other post-secondary courses offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which extend up to two years at least.

What does ‘consensus bill’ entail?

According to Farolan, the curriculum focuses on disaster risk reduction and management and civic duty-related concerns.

“The bill will be institutionalizing, if passed, a two-year mandatory national citizens’ service training program in tertiary education,” he said.

Students taking vocational courses are also covered by the bill. They need to undergo the mandatory NCST. TESDA courses that are taken up for less than two years will have special citizens seminars and programs.

The NSTP curriculum will be developed by a technical panel composed of different agencies and representatives from relevant national organizations.

Meanwhile, the optional four-year ROTC would “be geared toward producing officers for the regular and reserved force.”

“Of course, for the conversion of the officers into a regular force, for a regular commission, there will be other requirements as the DND [Department of National Defense] prescribed but the concept would be having a four-year ROTC course,” Farolan said.

The CHED official said that a national citizens service training monitoring and oversight committee will be formed, which will be chaired by the CHED, with the DND as its vice chairperson.

The committee will consist of representatives from TESDA, National Youth Commission, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and two representatives from relevant national organizations.

“This will ensure that all complaints are also attended to and there will be no abuses that inspections are conducted, surprise inspections especially, and all other possible abuses are immediately investigated,” Farolan said.

Progressive groups slammed the renewed push for mandatory ROTC, saying that it would be an “added burden” to students.

“Amid a crisis on student dropouts and mental health problems, Marcos’ solution is to add to the burden of students by forcing them to go under ROTC,” said Akbayan Youth, the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines and the Bukluran ng mga Progresibong Iskolar in a joint statement in July. –

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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.