Senate eyes passage of mandatory ROTC, other ‘priority bills’ by end-May

Bonz Magsambol

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Senate eyes passage of mandatory ROTC, other ‘priority bills’ by end-May

TRAINING. Students of a school in Manila starts training for the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) amid proposasl to make ROTC mandatory in senior high schools, on January 28, 2023.


'The ROTC bill is somehow controversial, but my promise to Senator Bato dela Rosa is that we will deliberate on it, on plenary,' says Senate President Migz Zubiri

MANILA, Philippines – A day before the Senate regular session resumes on Monday, April 29, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said the upper chamber was eyeing to pass at least 20 “priority bills” of the Marcos administration, including the controversial mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) bill.

The Senate aims to pass the bills before the end of the second regular session of the 19th Congress on May 24 for Sine Die Adjournment.

“We are right on track when it comes to the approval of priority measures of the President both in the LEDAC (Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council) and in his SONA. We are confident that the Senate can pass 20 of these measures before the 2nd Regular Session end, and the rest of our commitment before this year ends,” Zubiri said in a message to reporters on Sunday, April 28.

The Senate President assured the public that all the measures to be passed at the Senate will be “carefully considered and thoroughly deliberated upon so that the resulting law is as near-perfect as humanly possible.”

The mandatory ROTC bill has been sitting in the Senate for one and half a years now. In December 2022, the House of Representatives passed its counterpart measure, a bill seeking to compel college students to undergo a two-year mandatory National Citizens Service Training (NCST), instead of ROTC. It consolidated 28 bills from various authors.

“The ROTC bill is somehow controversial, but my promise to Senator Bato dela Rosa is that we will deliberate on it, on plenary. And once and for all, before the we go on break for sine die, of course, we will talk about it, vote on it. At least, lets’s put it to vote because what’s important is we tackle this,” Zubiri said in a mix of English and Filipino in a separate interview on Sunday.

Dela Rosa is a staunch advocate of mandatory ROTC, pushing for the consolidated bill that would create the program. He has said that instead of students spending so much time on TikTok, it would be better to put them through military training.

In his push for mandatory ROTC, Dela Rosa said that those willing to kill and die for the country are more patriotic than those who are just watching at the sidelines.

“‘Yung Pilipino na willing pumatay ng mga invaders at magpakamatay (Filipinos who are willing to kill invaders and willing to die) in the name of Filipino flag, Filipino people, are more patriotic than those sitting on the sides waiting for what will happen and benefit for the fruits that we harvest after the war,” Dela Rosa said in August 2023.

The push for mandatory ROTC isn’t new. Former president Rodrigo Duterte also made a bid to make ROTC mandatory for all college students early in his presidency, but this plan fizzled out.

The murder of Mark Welson Chua, a student from the University of Santo Tomas, led to the abolition of the mandatory ROTC program in 2002. It became optional through Republic Act No. 9163 or the National Service Training Program Act of 2001.


Chua exposed the corruption in their ROTC unit back then in a write up published on their campus publication, The Varsitarian.

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Aside from the mandatory ROTC bill, Zubiri said other measures, such as Waste-to-Energy Act, Blue Economy Act, and reformed pension system for military and uniformed personnel are currently pending approval on second reading.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System (PENCAS) Act, a framework that accounts for the country’s natural capital and its economic impact, is already up for the President’s signature. Zubiri added that two priority measures – the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act and the Self Reliant Defense Posture Act (SRDP) – are both awaiting bicameral conference committee approval, while the Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning (ARAL) Program Act is already approved on final reading and was transmitted to the House of Representatives for action. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.