A number of progressive groups on Monday signed a petition against the proposed revival of the mandatory Reserved Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program for Grade 11 and 12 students.
The groups cited the additional expenses and waste of public funds, more burdens on students, culture of violence and corruption, fake nationalism, threat to academic freedom, and violation of domestic and international laws and conventions as reasons for opposing the proposal.
“We, students, teachers, parents, and citizens who care for our youth and the nation, firmly oppose the revival of mandatory ROTC via its inclusion in the Senior High School curriculum,” the groups said.
They added that the government “has more pressing matters with regard to education to address.”
“We call on the government to take action to resolve the students' genuine concerns for increased education budget and retrofitting of schools towards the safe resumption of classes,” they said.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. included the proposed mandatory ROTC program as one of the priority measures of his administration, even mentioning it in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“The aim is to motivate, train, organize, and mobilize the students for national defense preparedness, including disaster preparedness and capacity building for risk-related situations,” he said in his SONA.
But according to Kabataan party-list Representative Raoul Manuel, the government can already tap those who have completed the National Service Training Program for disaster response in accordance with the law.
“There is hereby created a National Service Reserve Corps, to be composed of the graduates of the non-ROTC components. Members of this Corps may be tapped by the State for literacy and civic welfare activities through the joint effort of the DND, CHED and TESDA,” the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001 reads.
Manuel proposed expanding the NSTP law with additional tracks instead.
University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council president Nathan Agustin, for his part, lamented that the government is pushing for mandatory ROTC while some issues in the education sector are still unheeded.
Former spokesperson of Abolish ROTC Network Atty. VJ Topacio, meanwhile, recalled the killing of his friend Mark Wilson Chua, allegedly by his ROTC handlers, after he exposed the corruption in the ROTC corps in 2001.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers Philippines chairperson Vladimer Quetua expressed concern that teachers and students will have to spend additional money and time due to ROTC.
Child rights advocate Salinlahi Vinzar Dawani said the proposed mandatory ROTC is a violation to the “Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act.”
Under the Section 7 of the law, children have “the right to be protected from recruitment into government forces or armed groups and from participation in armed conflict including the right to be protected from torture or any cruel, inhuman or degrading practices that compel compliance or punish noncompliance with recruitment or participation in armed conflict.”
Gabriela’s Rose Binag said that the government should ensure their kids' safety considering the reports of abuses in the program.
Gabriela Youth’s Shay Ganal called out the program’s “machismo, sexism, and impunity.” She said many women have been harassed and raped due to the program.
Former CAT cadet officer Fredrick Cruz Bermudez also opposed the mandatory ROTC as, according to him, the program would only impose blind obedience on students.
Working student Anna Mutuc said that the program would also affect students who are juggling their jobs and academics. —KBK, GMA News