Various student and youth groups, led by Kabataan Partylist Quezon City (KPL – QC), along with militant youth organizations Anakbayan – Metro Manila and Kabataan Partylist – Metro Manila, staged a picket protest in front of the House of Representatives (HOR) and in front of Batasan National High School on Monday, June 3.

The groups assailed the passage of the mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for Senior High School students in the Lower House. The bill was officially passed on its third reading last May 20.

Attack on youth’s rights

“The ROTC is yet another attack on the rights of the youth. It was proven before that the program perpetuates a culture of blind obedience, impunity, and even cost the lives of fellow youth. We must remember Mark Welson Chua, a cadet from the University of Sto. Tomas, killed by his superiors after his exposition of the corruption in his own unit and the others who experienced the same fate,” said Renz Leocadio, the secretary-general of KPL-QC, during the HOR program.

Kabataan Partylist Quezon City (KPL – QC), along with militant youth organizations Anakbayan – Metro Manila and Kabataan Partylist – Metro Manila, staged a picket protest in front of the House of Representatives. Photo by Akira Liwanag

Leocadio further expounded that the mandatory ROTC for Senior High School students will repress the students, as it will only intensify hazing, harassment, and even red-tagging among the students.

“We are against the mandatory ROTC for it will also justify the military presence within the school campuses and might tamper the democratic rights of the students, most especially their right to organize,” Leocadio continued.

“The government is saying that the Mandatory ROTC for Senior High School students would be beneficial for it will teach nationalism through its military and civic activities. It is indeed ironic that Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines serve as the primary campaigner for this bill, given that they cannot even protect the sovereignty of our country from countries like China. The Mandatory ROTC is nothing but a fake program to make the youth more subservient instead of critical,” said Lory Caalaman, the vice-chairperson of Kabataan Partylist – Metro Manila.

The bill concerning the Mandatory ROTC program was deemed by President Rodrigo Duterte as ‘urgent’ earlier in the day. While the Lower House has passed the bill on its third reading, the Senate has yet to decide on the matter.

Not an urgent priority

For the youth groups, the Duterte administration’s fast-tracking of the mandatory ROTC only shows the administration’s skewed priorities.

“The government would go as far as to allocate a huge chunk of budget for the implementation of this program while failing to account the more pressing matters in our education,” Leocadio stressed.

According to Leocadio, millions of youth are still forced to drop out of school due to the added expenditure needed due to the implementation of the K-12 program.

“We still receive reports that there are still lack of teachers and adequate facilities in various high schools despite the K-12 program being implemented for years. Yet, the government would rather turn a blind eye on these instead of resolving them and instead push an unnecessary and repressive program that would burden the youth,” Leocadio manifested.

Meanwhile, Mark Fernando, the spokesperson of Anakbayan Metro Manila, reiterated that the youth will continue to campaign against the proposed program.

“The government’s pushing for programs which harm the youth shows their true intentions. They give us no other choice but to continue our campaigns against their anti-youth and anti-people policies. The youth stands firm that it will fight this impending mandatory ROTC,” Fernando said.

“If the government wants to teach nationalism, then it has failed to do so with this mandatory ROTC. It has only reinforced an educational system that is rotten, colonial, commercialized and repressive. The militant youth will continue to push for an education that is nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented, born out of our triumphs in pushing for national democracy.” Fernando ended.

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