We, the Alyansang Makabayang Humanista, are voicing our concern regarding House Bill No. 2447 or the proposed Senior High School Reserve Officers Training Corps Act. We suggest that the ROTC shall not be mandatory for students, especially on the Senior High School Level.
The ROTC was first introduced in the Commonwealth Era under President Manuel L. Quezon. It was a two-year program which aims to prepare the citizens for warfare through a series of trainings such as first-aid, map reading and light weapon handling. It was hampered during the Second World War but was reinstated by President Ferdinand Marcos through Presidential Decree No. 1706 of 1980. It was then used as basis for the enactment of Republic Act No. 7077 or the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reservist Act of 1991 which requires all freshman college students to take ROTC for a year.
In 2002, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed RA No. 9163 or the National Service Training Program Act. It serves as an amendment to RA No. 7077, allowing students to choose among ROTC, Literacy Training Service or the Civic Welfare Training Service program.
It can be remembered that even President Rodrigo Duterte himself supposedly tried to hurdle the compulsory program during his college days, when he imbued a tuberculosis patient to sell him his X-ray results to pass these off as his own so that he be excluded from the program for medical reasons. With this, it just shows that he himself lacks a moral high ground to demand absolute participation in the ROTC program.
In 2018, an article affirmed the instances of students who could easily pass the course by simply paying their commandants. Corruption was not only the issue when the news broke out that an officer of the program was brutally killed after testifying about the illicit and dishonest practices of his colleagues. The program also encouraged fraternities, who typically subject their apprentices in uncontrolled hazing.
Besides the anomalous foundation of the proposed revival of ROTC, problems concerning "logistical" challenges in the current K-12 system seem to be a problem in maintaining the stability of the system, as stated by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto. With this, the revival of ROTC in the SHS level is deemed to be more problematic in conjunction with the raw and flawed system of the K-12 program.
The government has consistently called for the reestablishment of ROTC. President Duterte once said in a speech that ROTC instills patriotism, the love of country among our youth. The commander of the AFP Reserve Command, Brig. Gen. Rolando Rodil, assumed the position of the President as he argued that the other two components of the NSTP (CWTS and LTS) failed to ingrain patriotism, nationalism and character-building. We hope that the love for our country is not defined nor limited to demonstration of jingoism as it is being implied by the mandatory ROTC.
In 2015, among the three NSTP options, ROTC attracted only 14 percent of the NSTP enrollees, with the majority preferring for CWTS. If what General Rodil contends is true, why do more college students opt not to take ROTC?
While ROTC may impart survival skills beneficial for students, we must not forget the horrors that this program has brought to past generations. History has shown us that the mandatory ROTC's goal to instill nationalist objectives to the minds of our youth had been inconsistent. Moreover, it became a means of promoting coercion and not discipline.
In line with this, our organization proposes the following recommendations: (1) ROTC should not be made compulsory so that students will have a choice on whether or not to pursue this program; (2) the government should either invest in cultural courses and educational programs that promote our heritage to foster nationalism among students; and lastly, (3) the existing ROTC program should be updated and made more practical.
Implementing mandatory ROTC would require P38 billion in funding as disclosed by Senator Gatchalian in a Senate hearing. This large sum could be used to finance improvements for the Senior High School program, which to this day still has issues that warrant attention. We pose that in achieving the goal to instill patriotism in the Filipino youth, we must first strengthen our efforts in bettering the education system particularly under the K-12 curriculum before rushing in reviving and enforcing a single military training course. The aforementioned suggestions would be favorable to the general public as well for additional costs in children’s education would be avoided.
Antonio Miguel Romero is the president of the Alyansa ng Makabayang Humanista of the University of Sta. Tomas.