Military reservists training at a military camp. Photo courtesy of Rappler.
An overwhelming majority or 78% of surveyed Filipinos are in favor of implementing the mandatory Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program for college students, according to a Pulse Asia poll Senator Sherwin Gatchalian commissioned on March 15 to 19.
As chair of the Senate education committee, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill No. 1551 in December 2022 to restore Mandatory Basic ROTC in the college level.
While the status and age bracket are unspecified, the survey records Mindanao with 92% of the 1,200 sample respondents who support the program’s cause. 80% are from Visayas, 77% are from National Capital Region (NCR), and 72% from the rest of Luzon.
Respondents also have specified through the survey questionnaire their belief on ROTC could influence “discipline and responsibility” to the youth. The 60% in favor express it would prepare students to defend the country, while 59% think it would develop student leadership skills.
Political Scope of the Mandatory ROTC
Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, an advocate of the mandatory ROTC, pushes for the implementation of the program, saying students are better off in military training, especially with the threat of China in the West Philippine Sea.
“Alam natin may looming threat tayo dito sa South China Sea, ‘yung pag-occupy ng China diyan sa ating mga teritoryo diyan sa South China Sea. Kailangan ready tayo, dahan-dahan na silang umaabante dito,” Dela Rosa says in a Senate hearing.
He also expresses his optimism on the approval of the mandatory ROTC Bill into law.
The senate is yet to resume their regular reading session and debate on May 8.
According to Dela Rosa, females are not exempted in the coverage of the ROTC program, while persons with disabilities (PWDs) are to be offered an alternative program relative to the military education.
Dela Rosa also states those who fail to complete ROTC training would be ineligible to graduate. The senator also plans to reinstate the Reservists Act or Republic Act (RA) 7077 for out-of-school-youths following the activation of the mandatory ROTC.
Foreign students enrolled in baccalaureate degree courses or technical vocational courses, where the basic ROTC is required, will also be subjected to conform with a specialized program “that would deepen their understanding and appreciation of the Philippines, its people, society, culture and government, and harness their potential as bridges to improve their respective countries with the Philippines,” as per the ROTC bill.
Besides Senator Dela Rosa, former President Rodrigo Duterte also engaged in pushing for the mandatory ROTC program during his presidential term but failed to see his plan through.
ROTC was a requirement at the college level until 2002, with the death of Mark Welson Chua, a University of Santo Tomas student, who exposed the ROTC program’s alleged corruption.
The Philippine education system is following Republic Act No. 9163 or the National Service Training Program Act of 2001, with its selection of programs for the students to choose from ROTC, Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS), and Literacy Training Service (LTS).
The projected budget for mandatory ROTC is Php 61.2 billion, which is equivalent to 24,480 classrooms. Kabataan Party-list executive vice president Renee Louise Co. states the need for funding additional classrooms, raising teacher salaries, and better educational facilities are needed instead of spending it on military boots and barracks.
“Ang DepEd na mismo ang umamin na nasa gitna tayo ng isang education crisis. Kung may kailangan pondohan man hindi ito boots at barracks kundi mga dagdag classroom, suweldo sa teachers, mas maayos na pasilidad at iba pang pangangailangan para matuto nang mabuti ang mga kabataan,” says Kabataan party-list executive vice president Renee Louise Co.