Students and youth organizations reverberated the calls to reject Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (MROTC) and the scrapping of the Return Service Agreement (RSA) in time for the conduct of “First day rage” or the students’ symbolical action during first day of classes held in University of the Philippines Manila on February 13.
An aggressive payback scheme
With RSA in effect, students with 60 units enrolled in the university must stay and work in the country for a minimum of two years.
Those who breach the contract due to being unable to complete the return service program must render payment as an option.
In this regard, the agreement has caused some to remain in their degree programs despite failing or lacking interest, to enroll less than the regular load per semester to avoid reaching the 60 units limit, or drop out of school completely.
Accordingly, youth groups called it a new and extreme form of commercialization in education; hence called for its abolition.
Furthermore, UP Manila University Student Council released a statement December last year and called RSA as oppressive, repressive, and unpatriotic.
“Hindi makabayan ang pagtatali ng kapwa natin sa isang sistemang pumapatay sakanila. Bagkus, ang RSA ay direktang paglabag sa ating karapatan sa edukasyon. Ang solusyon sa brain drain ay nakakabuhay na sahod, maayos na kundisyon sa trabaho, at sapat na serbisyo panlipunan!” the council added.
Youth groups were enraged with the railroading of MROTC which will serve as a ticket for allowing militarization among campuses like UP Manila.
The Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) is a program of the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), within public and private tertiary institutions that aims to prepare youth as army reserves and soldiers should armed conflicts break out inside or outside the country.
However, Congress passed a bill called “National Citizens Service Training” last December 2022 which compelled students to undergo instead of ROTC. But many student noted such training as an “ROTC in disguise”.
Accordingly, its curriculum design focused primarily on disaster response and management, survival and safety techniques, and civic duty inculcation. Graduates will then be incorporated into the army reserves.
Other than NCST, the congress would also seek to institutionalize the four-year optional ROTC program with the Department of National Defense and CHED to design its curriculum.
Meanwhile, last February 6, DND proposed to the Senate the five-year phase program design with a whopping P61.2 billion estimated fund prior to ROTC implementation.
- Phase 1 (2023) – P5,240,000
- Phase 2 (2024, Q1 to Q3) – P5,542,498,579.20
- Phase 3 (2024, Q4; 2025, Q1 to Q3) – P14,861,591,011.20
- Phase 4 (2025) – P20,384,338,579.20
- Phase 5 (2026) – P20,384,338,579.20
“MROTC and the AFP itself have a long history of violence — from corruption, hazing, red-tagging, to the deaths of our fellow youth. Accordingly, this program will aggravate state violations of human rights under the Anti-Terror Law,” said Lumansag, an alliance network of various students, rights groups and defenders that reject the proposal for the returning of MROTC.
The said network called on the government for the P61.2 billion to instead fund free education, public services, and address the worsening education crisis and inflation.
They added that ROTC will only lead to a culture of impunity, blind obedience to their officers, abuse and the spread of a culture that legitimizes abuse among the youth after a series of assassinations, abductions, and illegal arrests of leaders and progressive organizations put premium under the many generations and now with the current Marcos Jr. administration.
“If nationalism is to be strengthened, why are Filipino and History subjects removed from the curriculum? If patriotism is being pushed as the goal, why is activism being vilified? Why are people who fight for the democratic interest of the people being destroyed and imprisoned? How can the mandatory ROTC be trusted if its initiators are also the masterminds behind the killing of many of our countrymen?” the network posed a question.
Lumansag reiterated that if the government’s purpose is truly for students’ benefit, then it should heed their demand for free education and freedom of organization.