Mandatory military service proposed
Vice presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte will push for mandatory military service for all Filipinos once they turn 18 if she wins in the May 2022 elections.
Mayor Duterte said she would use the Office of the Vice President to convince Congress to pass the needed legislation.
“Everyone, once you turn 18—once you reach 18 years old—you will be given a subsidy. You will be asked to serve our country under our Armed Forces of the Philippines,” she said during the UniTeam’s Metro Manila Virtual Caravan on Wednesday.
“We see this being done in other countries like South Korea and Israel. It would not be like the ROTC that’s just one subject, or one weekend, or one month in one year,” she added.
Mayor Duterte was referring to the ROTC, or the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a voluntary college program for Filipino students.
The program was made mandatory under Republic Act No. 9163, or the National Service Training Program Act of 2001, following the killing of University of Santo Tomas sophomore cadet Mark Welson Chua in 2001 after exposing alleged corruption in the school’s military training program.
But House Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, who is also running for vice president, opposed the Davao City Mayor’s proposal.
‘No real use’
He pointed out that the Philippines has already dispensed in the past the mandatory military training because it had “no real use” in developing the youth.
Saying that the country is frequently visited by typhoons, landslides and earthquakes, he said the government should instead be molding the youth to become more conscious of their civic duties and become better citizens.
In a Twitter post, senatorial candidate and Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares also opposed mandatory military training for Filipinos.
“The existing optional ROTC program is fraught with problems. And we want to make it mandatory for all the youth? It should not be,” Colmenares said.
Other opposition candidates also disagreed with Mayor Duterte’s proposal, saying the country needed to rely less on militaristic solutions to its problems.
In a statement, Vice President Leni Robredo and her running mate Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan reminded the public that mandatory military training was abolished precisely because it became a “source of rampant corruption and abuses in the past.”
Echoing their sentiments, Akbayan’s nominees also called Duterte’s proposal “absurd, unfair and irrelevant” in the face of an ongoing public health crisis.
Responding to criticisms over her proposal, Mayor Duterte on Thursday said that she had also pointed out during the virtual caravan the need for the youth to be prepared for disasters and become partners in rescue operations and in aiding victims of calamities.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, said that while he welcomed the idea of drafting 18-year-old men and women in the military, he pointed out that the proposal was hardly feasible.
In a statement on Thursday, Lorenzana cited “huge hurdles” to the plan on top of which was that the Philippines was “not on a war footing.”
“First are the funds and resources. Training camps would need to be established all over the land, and manpower and funds must be allocated to accommodate the millions who will reach the age of 18 every year,” Lorenzana pointed out.
He also anticipated objections from persons not inclined to serve in the military. “The implementation of mandatory ROTC in private and public schools is the better alternative,” he said.
He noted that implementation of mandatory ROTC, targeting the K-11 and K-12 levels, is already starting in state universities and colleges and is expected to produce “a huge number of youth who will form part of our reservists.”
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