Various youth groups assailed the passage of the Mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in the Lower House on Wednesday, February 06, claiming that it paves the way for militarization within school premises.
The House Bill (HB) 8961 which requires Mandatory ROTC for Senior High School students, was passed on its second reading amidst objections raised by several lawmakers in the Lower House. The bill now also requires girls to be part of the program, as compared to the previous ROTC program wherein only the boys’ participation was compulsory.
On November 22 last year, speaking at the ARESCOM 35th anniversary, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants mandatory ROTC for Grade 11 and 12.
“I likewise encourage Congress to enact a law that will require mandatory ROTC for Grades 11 and 12, so we can instill patriotism… love of country among our youth,” Duterte said.
‘Breeding grounds of impunity’
The ROTC serves as one of the three optional components of the National Service Training Program (NSTP). The program said it aimed to enhance civic consciousness, instill patriotism, and develop the ethics of service through military training and was only previously mandatory for students of the tertiary level. Under the NSTP, universities and colleges may choose to implement any two or all three components and students are free to choose which component they would enroll for four semesters. The program up to now, save for state universities and local colleges covered by the free tuition policy in RA 10931, has matriculation fees on top of the fees for regular subjects.
The program ceased to be mandatory for college boys for four semesters following the death of Mark Welson Chua, a cadet from University of Sto. Tomas (UST), in 2001. After exposing corruption in the UST ROTC unit, Chua was murdered by his senior officers and his body was found in the Pasig River with his head wrapped in packaging tape.
In a study conducted by the National Union of Student of the Philippines (NUSP), cases involving hazing and sexual abuse in various universities and colleges still plague ROTC even after undergoing reforms. (see table below)
“Mandatory ROTC entails indoctrinating students with a militarist view of patriotism. If this brand of love for country means tyranny, human rights abuses, and repression of dissent inherent in any democracy—as reflected in the AFP’s atrocities towards peasants and indigenous peoples in the countryside—then the government would be gravely misguiding the youth,” says Erika Cruz, the regional coordinator of Kabataan Partylist Metro Manila (KPL MM).
Cruz maintains that the resumption of the program would only teach blind obedience to the senior high school students, as highlighted in a recent statement her group released following the Lower House’s greenlighting of the bill.
“Ang ROTC ay matagal nang nailantad bilang hakbangin upang higit na gawing ‘robot’ at sunud-sunuran ang mga estudyante nang sa gayo’y sila ay magamit mismo sa panunupil ng mamamayang kritikal sa anti-mamamayang mga polisiya ng gobyerno,” said KPL-MM in its statement.
[“The ROTC has long been exposed as a way to make students uncritically obedient so that they will be used by the State as a way to curtail the citizens critical of its anti-people policies.”]
The group also blasted the Duterte administration for another anti-youth policy through ROTC, after the passage of the lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) in third and final reading in the Lower House of Congress.
“Habang kinakaharap ng milyun-milyong kabataan ang mababang badyet sa mga pampublikong pamantasan at taunang pagtataas ng matrikula sa mga pribadong paaralan, nakadiin ang pansin ng gobyerno sa isang programang nagbabalatkayo lamang na nakabubuti para sa mga mag-aaral,” KPL MM continued.
[“While the millions of the Filipino youth suffer under the low budget allocation from state-funded educational institutions, as well as yearly tuition fee increases from private schools, the government still chooses to prioritize a deceptive program posturing as ‘beneficial’ for the students,”]
For the youth group, the alternative to instilling service and love for the nation should not be reliant on military training programs alone. Rather, they propose that the government should focus on improving the educational system instead.
“Hindi ang mga huwad na programang tulad ng ROTC, na nagtuturo ng bulag na pagsunod ang magtuturo sa kabataan na maging patriyotiko at disiplinado. Ang solusyon pa rin para maturuan ang mga kabataan kung paano maglingkod sa bayan ay sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng kanilang batayang karapatan sa edukasyong siyentipiko, makabayan, at makamasa. Sa pamamagitan lamang nito maipapatimo sa kabataan ang kahalagahan ng kanilang potensyal para sa lehitimong pagbabagong-panlipunan at paglilingkod sa bayan,” the youth group ended.
[“Fake programs like ROTC, which peddles blind obedience, will not teach the youth to become patriotic and disciplined. The solution in teaching the youth to serve the nation still lies through giving them their basic right to an education that is scientific, nationalist, and mass-oriented. It is only through this that the youth will be able to discern the importance of their potential for legitimate nation-building and serving the nation.”]
NUSP listed some of the reported violations in the ROTC program from 1995 to 2017.
|Year||School||Nature of Violation||Remarks|
|1995||De La Salle University||hazing||Mechanical student and ROTC cadet Seth Lopez succumbed to injuries following hazing activities by ROTC cadet officers in a farm in Tanay, Rizal.|
|1999||Saint Louis University||hazing||Student and ROTC cadet Arthur Salero died of hazing.|
|1999, 2000||University of the Cordilleras||hazing|
|2000||University of the Philippines Baguio||hazing|
|2001||University of Santo Tomas||Murder of Mark Welson Chua||Chua exposed the corruption of UST ROTC unit. He was murdered by his senior officers and dumped in Pasig River.|
|2006||University of the Philippines Diliman||red-tagging, assault on democratic rights||ROTC and SIN members distributed pamphlets discouraging the students to join the walkout against 300% tuition increase. They tagged leaders of anti-tuition increase as recruiters for New People’s Army (NPA).|
|2007||Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Sta. Mesa||red-tagging||ROTC unit distributed pamphlets tagging student leaders, including the PUP Central Student Council Chairperson, as NPA recruiters.|
|2010||University of the Philippines Los Baños||red-tagging||ROTC unit distributed pamphlets tagging student leaders and activists as recruiters of NPA. They discouraged students to join the walkout against class-size increase per subject.|
|2014||Benguet State University||hazing||Brenda Dayao, a student who entered Cadet Officer Candidate Course (COCC), experienced paddling in their training. Female cadets were also forced to sleep in the quarters of male cadets.|
|2014||Benguet State University||sexual abuse, hazing||Jezrael Sacpa testified that ROTC officials hit them with wooden rifle and mauled them. They were forced to remove clothes and masturbate. He filed a complaint against Emily Sao-anen and Elray Baguiwan but was dismissed by BSU Administration. The incident occurred last November 2014.|
|2014||De La Salle University||hazing||Charges were filed against ROTC Corps Commander and COCC program was suspended after the Student Discipline Formation Office (SDFO) received multiple reports of hazing, including one filed by parents of a former cadet.|
|2014||Ateneo de Davao University||red-tagging||On August 23, 2014, at a forum entitled “Threat to National Security” held at the Ateneo de Davao University, Army Capt. Nathaniel Morales of the 10th Infantry Division, branded the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) as a “legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).” The forum was part of NSTP orientation.|
|2014||Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Sta. Mesa||hazing||A freshmen student filed a complaint against two (2) ROTC officers after she experienced hazing in two (2) separate incidents.|
|2015||University of the Philippines Visayas – Tacloban College||red-tagging||Campus journalists of UP Vista, the official student publication of UPVTC, was tagged in an ROTC lecture class as members of NPA.|
|2016||University of Mindanao – Tagum||hazing, verbal abuse, and psychological abuse||A video uploaded in Facebook shows several cadets were being hit hard repeatedly in their chest and stomach by their senior officers. One of the officers were heard saying “Kung gusto mo maranasan ang naranasan ng senior mo, tanggapin mo ‘yan lahat!” The incident occurred on July 15, 2016.|
|2016||Tarlac State University||surveillance||Local ROTC unit in TSU conducted a surveillance operation during a forum for free education in the said university.|
|2016||Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Pasig||hazing, sexual abuse||PLP ROTC cadets experienced physical abuse as well as attempted rape of female cadets.|
|2016-2017||University of the Philippines Mindanao||militarization||ROTC classes in UP Mindanao is under the supervision of Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 11th Infantry Battalion, a violation of Sotto-Enrile Accord of 1989 which forbids police and military presence within any campus of University of the Philippines.|