House OKs bill on mandatory ROTC for senior high students

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 20) — The House of Representatives approved Monday on third and final reading a bill requiring a mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program for grades 11 and 12 students in public and private schools nationwide.

With 167 affirmative votes, four against and no abstentions, the chamber approved House Bill 8961, or the proposed act mandating the “institutionalization, development, training, organization, and administration” of basic ROTC for senior high students around the country.

Under the measure, ROTC will be a requirement for graduation for all students in both public and private high schools.

Those physically or psychologically unfit or are part of the school's varsity team are exempted from mandatory ROTC training. Students who are undergoing a similar military training or those who get an exemption from the Department of National Defense will also be exempted.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly called for mandatory ROTC training. In a speech last November, the chief executive urged lawmakers to pass a bill “so you can instill patriotism and love of country to the youth.”. He likewise argued that the program is needed for future Filipinos to be able to protect the country.

‘Instilling love for country’

Both the Defense department and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed the lower chamber’s passage of the bill.

In a statement Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the reinstatement of mandatory ROTC will help instill to the youth the “love of country, good citizenship, respect for human rights, and adherence to the rule of law.”

The AFP, on the other hand, said the younger generation “needs to be exposed to the rudiments of basic soldiery no matter brief to help develop and hone their leadership potentials.”

The Gabriela Women's Party, however, condemned the bill's approval amid "lack of substantive debates on the measure." The organization stressed that mandatory ROTC will only institutionalize the presence and operations of military officers in schools, and will give AFP a "free pass" in conducting red-tagging seminars.

ROTC was made optional as one of the three National Service Training Program (NSTP) courses for college and university students.

The NSTP Act of 2001 was passed following the controversial death of ROTC Officer Mark Chua, who had published an exposé on alleged irregularities in the ROTC unit of his school, the University of Santo Tomas (UST), in its students' publication The Varsitarian.

His body was found floating in Pasig River, bound with packing tape and wrapped inside a carpet in March 2001.