MANILA, Philippines – The bill seeking to compel college students to undergo a two-year mandatory National Citizens Service Training (NCST) program beat the Christmas break deadline, and passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, December 15.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. certified the bill as urgent, allowing the lower chamber to approve the measure on second and third reading on the same day, just before Congress goes on a holiday break on December 17.
A total of 276 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, while four legislators voted against it, and one other abstained.
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 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Reserve Force.
The proposal also seeks to institutionalize the four-year optional Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program, with a curriculum to be designed by the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Commission on Higher Education (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.
The progressive Makabayan bloc vehemently opposed the proposal, worrying that the NCST was the government’s way of preparing students for combat.
“Despite mixing other civic duties in the curriculum, it does not erase the fact that military training is part of NCST and it is being forced upon students without exemption,” Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel said. – Rappler.com