Mandatory military training for civilians, particularly students in schools through the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program, is bread and butter for many countries around the world. The Philippines itself once saw the ROTC course for college, following Citizen Army Training (CAT) in high school, as a normal routine and not much to bat an eye at. That changed in 2002 when, in the wake of a backlash following the death of an ROTC cadet, the program was made optional. Now during the Presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, the general mood seems right to make reserve officer training mandatory once more.
ABS-CBN News reports that President Duterte has marked as urgent a bill to revive the Philippine ROTC program, this time as part of the Senior High School curriculum. Duterte has sent a letter to that effect, on behalf of the Senior High School Reserve Officers Training Corps Act, to Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, as the upper house of Congress is working on their version of the legislation (Senate Bill 2232). In the President’s word’s, urgent passing of SB 2232 will “restore basic military and leadership training for the youth in order to invigorate their sense of nationalism and patriotism necessary in defending the State and to further promote their vital role in nation-building.”
The House of Representatives has already approved their half of the Senior High ROTC Act, while the Senate portion has yet to undergo a second reading. But the prospects of the law being readied for President Duterte’s signature by the incumbent 17th Congress seem slim, seeing as they only have three days left before adjournment. Malacañang on the other hand is not entirely worried about that, with Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo noting that if nothing more can be done now, they can wait until the 18th Congress opens on July 22, as they are certain the new Senate lineup can pass SB 2232 without hassle.
Spokesperson Panelo is himself an ardent advocate for the return of ROTC, and spoke at length of his own experiences with the original program back in college. “When I was in college, I underwent Reserve Officers’ Training Corps,” he remarked. “You’re taught there how to handle firearms, how to have discipline, you’re lectured on many things even laws, even on history.” Panelo is of the opinion that compulsory ROTC for both genders will better prepare Filipino citizens in case of conflict situations, when all able-bodied persons may possibly be called upon to defend the country.
The Senior High ROTC Act will make the program compulsory for both private and public schools. Exceptions will still be given for senior high students judged physically or psychologically unfit by the program. These exceptions also apply for varsity sports players, those who are part of similar military training regimens, or when given exemption by the Department of National Defense.
Image courtesy of Manila Times