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CEBU, Philippines – Students from the University of the Philippines Cebu (UPC) and youth activists condemned the supposed holding of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Games orientation inside the university on Friday, May 5.
Members of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP)-Cebu Chapter, UPC University Student Council (USC), Union of Progressive Students (UPS), and Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante (NKE) staged a protest in front of the university gates, urging the administration to stand against campus militarization.
“By opening the gates for state forces to enter and promote ROTC, the UPC administration has abandoned its most vital constituents and shamelessly unveiled where its priority lies – granting disservice to the community for service to the bloodthirsty,” Tug-ani, UPC’s official student publication, said in a statement.
In a petition of UPC USC on change.org, students also opposed the signing of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-Regional Community Defense Group (RCDG) Memorandum of Understanding that obliges the signing university to enroll 350 students from the first year batch into the ROTC program.
Ian Vincent Manticajon of the UPC Public Information Office (PIO) told Rappler that the MOU is yet to be signed and that the university had no hand in drafting the document.
“Having been offered to UPC, it will undergo the usual evaluation by the UPC Legal Office and deliberation by UP System officials,” Manticajon said.
In December 2022, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairperson and UP Board of Regent head Prospero de Vera III, then-Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairperson Jose Emmanuel Eala, and then-defense chief Jose Faustino Jr. signed a pact establishing the ROTC Games.
The games would include sports and athletic activities like basketball, volleyball, kickboxing, weightlifting, and more, with the goal of being a platform for ROTC cadets to compete in Olympic-level, NSA-sanctioned sporting events.
According to the UPC PIO, the orientation for the ROTC Games would have supposedly happened at the university.
“To clarify, the activity was supposed to be an orientation on the ROTC Games to be held in the Visayas this July and nationwide this August or September,” Manticajon said.
In an update from Tug-ani on Friday afternoon, it was announced that the orientation did not push through as officials from CHED decided that the venue was too small for its participants. The event was moved to the Cebu Technological University.
No to mandatory ROTC
During the protest, student activists claimed that the ROTC Games would be used to militarize campuses and prepare the youth for the eventual implementation of the mandatory ROTC.
“Nanawagan ta nga bisan ang mga administration sa mga eskwelahan, mudapig sa pinakadako nga mga stakeholders o population sa ilahang unibersidad ug mao kana nga barogan ang mga interes sa mga magtutudlo ug mga estudyante,” Angel Mendiola Vice-President for the Visayas of NUSP, said.
(We call to the administration of the many schools to take the side of the largest stakeholders or population in their university and that is to uphold the interests of the teachers and students)
Other activists also called on the administration to bar state forces from entering the university so as to prevent the events of Cebu 8 from happening again.
In June 2020, police chased down student activists in the open field area of the university during a protest that ended with seven activists and one bystander being arrested.
“While we take steps to ensure that the rights and freedoms of individuals are protected within the university, there is no official policy against banning any individual or institution on account of their political persuasions, whether they are activists or government critics, or are government officers or officials,” Manticajon told Rappler.
Manticajon, who was assigned by the chancellor to address the issue, explained that the university’s stance has always been focused on principled engagement.
“By engaging with different institutions, in a principled and respectful manner, universities and other organizations can foster open dialogue and understanding,” he said.
Online due to COVID
On Wednesday, May 3, University Chancellor Leo Malagar issued a memorandum on temporarily shifting classes online starting Thursday, May 4, due to reports of COVID-19 cases on the campus, sparking speculation that this was in preparation for the ROTC Games orientation.
In a statement sent to Rappler, the administration clarified some details on the temporary shift to online classes at the university after rumors about the transition being done for the ROTC Games orientation circulated on social media.
“From April 24 to May 4, a total of 32 students with cold/flu symptoms consulted with our campus clinic, both online and onsite…. Out of this number, two students reported positive results under the rapid antigen test, with one consultation conducted onsite and the other online,” their statement read.
At present, there are a total of 1,739 students enrolled in the university.
“In line with our commitment to prioritize the health and safety of our constituents, we have decided to temporarily shift to online classes for a week to allow for thorough disinfection of all classrooms before resuming onsite classes,” the university administration said
The chancellor, in his memorandum, said that the university intends to return to on-site classes on Thursday, May 11.
“We urge our community members to remain vigilant, follow health protocols, and stay informed through UP Cebu official channels,” their statement read. – Rappler.com