House panel tackles bills reviving mandatory ROTC
MANILA, Philippines — The House committee on basic education and culture began on Monday its deliberations on bills seeking the revival of the mandatory basic Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for Grades 11 and 12 (senior high school) in public and private schools nationwide.
This came weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to “expedite” the restoration of ROTC for senior high school students to “instill patriotism, love of country among our youth.” If Congress fails to act on it, he said he might issue an executive order (EO) to require it.
The committee tackled House Bill Nos. 5097, 5113 and 8651.
At the committee meeting, UP Vanguards — the ROTC alumni association of the University of the Philippines — opposed the proposed measures, particularly House Bill (HB) No. 5113, saying it was not aimed at restoring the old ROTC but “mandates a new compulsory military training for minors.”
Guido Delgado of UP Vanguards also said HB 5113 violates children’s rights as stipulated under the “Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict,” which the Philippines is a party of.
Delgado also said the proposed transfer of the mandatory ROTC to Grades 11 and 12 was “contradictory” as they were not even qualified for officership in the reserve force.
Atty. Gilbert Reyes of UP Vanguards clarified that they support the return of ROTC but at the tertiary level, “where the youth are more mature.”
Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Tonisito Umali said DepEd supports the return of the required ROTC.
Lawyer Norman Daanoy, Department of National Defense chief of legal operations, also backed the proposed bills especially HB 5113, which he said was approved and certified by President Rodrigo Duterte as the administration bill during a Cabinet meeting in October 2017.
Daanoy argued that HB 5113 — a product of the six-month-long workshop and consultation — was not a violation of international protocols.
“Mr. Chair, ang hinihinigi lang ng Presidente kung pwede ibalik ang mandatory ROTC,” Daanoy told the panel. “The crafted House Bill 5113 is not a violation of the international protocol.”
“We are not training child soldiers for warfare. The objective of the protocol is we should avoid training children for warfighting or to become soldiers. We are not training children in high school to become soldiers.”
The Defense official also said they transferred the proposed mandatory ROTC to senior high school upon the recommendation of DepEd.
“Because out of 10 graduates, mataas na ‘yung tatlo ang makataas sa college. Kaya kailangan macatch-up natin doon pa lang sa high school,” said Daanoy, stressing that the measure aims to “promote civic consciousness.”
HB 5113, filed by Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, seeks to amend Republic Act No. 7077 or the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reservist Act by “mandating the institutionalization, development, training, organization, and administration of basic ROTC in Grades 11 and 12 in public and private educational institutions.”
Iloilo 5th District Rep. Raul Tupas filed HB 5097 which seeks to reinstate Sections 38 and 39 of RA 7077, while Nueva Ecija 2nd District Rep. Micaela Violago filed HB 8651 which seeks to repeal RA 9163 or the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001.
The committee also approved that the three bills, along with HB 5305 of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, be tackled with the House panels on government reorganization and higher and technical education. /je
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