Dela Rosa loses cool after mention of his Sanchez remark during ROTC hearing
MANILA, Philippines — What started as a peaceful discussion on the proposed revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) for senior high school students ended in a heated note when Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s remark on the looming release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez was mentioned by one of the resource speakers.
During the last 20 minutes of the hearing of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture on the proposed measure, Raoul Manuel, chairperson of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said upholding rights awareness would be hard especially if there are senators who believe that a convicted rapist and murderer like Sanchez be allowed to be released.
Manuel was referring to Dela Rosa, who in a television interview, said Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, “deserves a second chance” amid the possibility of being set free after spending over 20 years in jail for the rape-slay of a University of the Philippines – Los Baños (UPLB) student and the murder of another UPLB student in 1993.
Further, the NUSP chair also hit Dela Rosa over his “Oplan: Tokhang” campaign during his stint as Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.
“Siguro if mahirapan tayo na mai-uphold yung ganito rights awareness, magkakatalo na lang kung among the ranks of our public officials ay hindi po nana-agree doon lalo na if we have a senator who will say na okay lang na makalaya at may second chance yung isang rapist na mayor habang yung mahihirap ay madaling tokhangin na lamang,” Manuel said.
This remark got Dela Rosa’s ire who hit Manuel for bringing up a statement that has no relation to the topic being discussed at the hearing.
“Ang layo naman ng sinasabi mo. Kasama ba yan sa hearing yung comment na yun? Ang layo naman. That’s an affront,” Dela Rosa, in an obviously enraged tone, said.
“Ang layo naman. Bakit ka nagka ganun? Ano nang nangyari sa utak nyo? Ang layo naman,” the senator added.
Dela Rosa then noted that there are more students that support the revival of the mandatory ROTC than “left-leaning” students who reject the measure.
“I take offense on what you said na yung ROTC is a misrepresentation of nationalism. Anong tingin mo samin? Ganun ka lang mag-judge samin? Jinu-judge mo kami na ganun? Are you sure you are the true representation of the Filipino students? Iilan lang yang makakaliwa dyan sa estudyante. Mas marami dyan gusto mag-ROTC, I must tell you frankly,” the senator said.
The senator then asked Manuel a question: “Ikaw, kung Pilipino ka, do you love your country, you answer me?”
Manuel, in response, said students love the country and that students have different ways of showing it.
“Pag inatake tayo ng China dito, sinong palabanin mo sa mga Chinese na yan? NPA (New People’s Army)?” Dela Rosa said.
“Gusto naming ipaglaban ang ating bansa mula sa foreign invaders pero mismo sa ating Constitution, the AFP which is tasked to preserve our integrity and national sovereignty ay hindi natin nakikitaan ng real intent to defend our country so wala tayong role model for that,” Manuel responded.
The exchange between Dela Rosa and Manuel also opened up another controversial measure in the Congress — the return of the death penalty.
Dela Rosa said that if it were up to him, Sanchez should have been long gone with the death penalty in place.
“Did you know, ako mismo gusto kong bitayin yang Sanchez na yan? I am for death penalty! Kung may death penalty noon dapat nabitay na yang Sanchez na yan,” Dela Rosa said.
The senator then slammed those against the death penalty, saying: “Kayo naman ayaw ng death penalty. Ngayon bigyan ng second chance dahil na-reform na yung tao according to the computation eligible siya for pardon, ayaw na naman ninyo. Saan kami pupunta? Anong klaseng pag-iisip yan? San kami pupunta?”
“Gusto ko death penalty, ayaw ninyo. Ngayon i-release yan dahil walang death penalty titirahin na naman nyo ako. Ako ba gumawa ng batas na yan? Eligible siya by operation of law. Dahil sinabi ng batas, respetuhin natin. Pero di ko kagustuhan yan. Kung ako, gusto mo samahan mo ako bitayin natin yan?” he added.
Dela Rosa earlier submitted a bill seeking to revive the death penalty for those who will import, manufacture, cultivate or culture plants classified as dangerous drugs.
Disrespectful students proof of need for ROTC
Still enraged after his remark on Sanchez was brought up, Dela Rosa lamented how undisciplined students prove the need for the revival of mandatory ROTC.
“Kasi lang talaga that goes to show kung ikaw ang representation ng estudyante ngayon, ganun na pala ang estudyante ngayon — walang disiplina. Kahit ang senador kayang tirahin sa non-relevant issue sa ganitong forum. Kaya dapat pala talaga ibalik ang ROTC para madisiplina kayong mga estudyante kayo,” the senator said, drawing applause from the crowd.
Senator Pia Cayetano, likewise, advised guests to be respectful and avoid bringing up issues that are not relevant to the topic.
“We’re all here overtime and you need to use our valuable time to say something to the good senator, I know him so well if you had something to say, he will talk to you,” Cayetano said.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the committee on basic education, also warned Manuel’s group.
“Ano namang kinalaman ni Sanchez sa ROTC? This serves as a warning to your group. Wag nyo dadalhin yung mga walang katuturan dito sa komite na ito dahil sinisira niyo ang aming pagdinig at sinasayang nyo ang aming oras,” Gatchalian said.
Manuel later apologized for the “irrelevant remark” he made during the hearing. /muf
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