Duterte wants immediate revival of mandatory ROTC

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte eyes the revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program for all college students in the next school year.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on Wednesday the President personally backed the revival of the ROTC program.

"It's going to help in the building of discipline and values especially in this generation and we expect ROTC to be able to help build a sense of patriotism among the next generation," he said.

In his State of the Nation Address last July 25, President Duterte also called for the strengthening of the ROTC program.

"Let us also strengthen our ROTC program to instill love of country and good citizenship," he said.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said the ROTC program should not only focus on military training, but also offer an community-service option.

“Those could work hand-in-hand under the National Service Training Program [NSTP] for a holistic approach,” CHED executive director Julito Vitriolo said on Wednesday. “In these times, there is an urgent need to train a robust military force because of internal and external security threats.”

On Tuesday, Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo revealed that a legislative proposal to make ROTC mandatory for male and female college students was already being drafted.

The ROTC program was designed to provide military training to college students to mobilize them for national defense preparedness.

The program used to be mandatory until the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001 was passed in 2002. It gave college students the option to choose between ROTC, Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS), or Literacy Training Services.

After it was passed, the number of ROTC enrollees dropped by more than half from over 362,000 in 2000 to just over 106,000 in 2005, with almost 195,000 students joining the training last year.

Youth group against ROTC revival

Kabataan Party-list expressed resistance to the ROTC program revival, saying that it was detrimental to the rights and welfare of the students.

“We do not subscribe to the notion that ROTC could instill discipline and love of country, given its violent and mired history... ROTC should not be made mandatory. In fact, the program should be abolished,” Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said.

But Abella said Duterte was open to dialogues with critics to allay their fears.  He also said abuses in the program would also be addressed.

Kasama na 'yan sa prosesong pinag-uusapan, narinig na rin kung bakit may opposition tungkol sa pag-i-impose muli ng ROTC," he said.

[Translation: It is included in the process being discussed. We have heard the opposition regarding re-imposing the ROTC.]

Elago filed on Wednesday House Bill 2399 or the ROTC Abolition Act of 2016, as a countermeasure to Malacañang’s proposal.

CNN Philippines' Digital Producers Lara Tan and VJ Bacungan, correspondent Pia Bonalos, and intern Karl Andrew Sonio contributed to this report.