Senators split on calls to scrap mandatory ROTC bid after hazing death | Inquirer News

Senators split on calls to scrap mandatory ROTC bid after hazing death

By: - Reporter / @BPinlacINQ
/ 01:32 PM March 03, 2023

Senators split on calls to scrap mandatory ROTC bid after hazing death

Several senators air views on scrapping the mandatory ROTC bid on Friday, March 3, 2023, in view of the hazing death of Adamson University student John Matthew Salilig. | PHOTOS: Senate PRIB

UPDATED MANILA, Philippines — Senators have aired opposing views on the calls to scrap the bill seeking to revive the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program in the country following the death by hazing of Adamson University student John Matthew Salilig.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel on Friday renewed the call to drop the proposed mandatory ROTC measure given the hazing incident.


“Make it only optional to those who are ‘military inclined’ or interested in military matters,” he said.


Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said she had been pushing for reconsidering the mandatory ROTC plan even before Salilig’s death.

“Now, that call is even clearer,” she underscored in a statement.

Hontiveros cited the 2001 killing of Mark Welson Chua, an ROTC cadet from the University of Santo Tomas, after he exposed corruption in his school’s military training program.

Chua’s brutal murder sparked calls to abolish the mandatory ROTC program. It was later made optional through the National Service Training Program Act of 2001.

“Walang puwang ang anumang uri ng karahasan sa ating mga paaralan at pamantasan (There is no space for any form of violence in our schools and educational institutions). There is no compelling justification to revive the mandatory ROTC program,” Hontiveros said.

She then called on the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education to instead focus on “actively making campuses safe spaces and exert zero-tolerance of savage practices like hazing, to protect students from all forms of violence and unnecessary, preventable deaths.”


Clamor and reservations

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, a member of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity and Salilig, said the clamor to review the mandatory ROTC proposal further was fueled by this latest hazing death.

He likewise sought to have Chua in mind when discussing the move to reinstitute the compulsory ROTC program.

“Hindi basta-basta, bigla-bigla na tinanggal iyong [mandatory] ROTC. Merong malalim, masusi na pinag-aralang dahilan kung bakit tinanggal iyan. So kung ibabalik, iyong lang ang caution natin. Dapat masusing pag-aaral ang gawin and tingnan natin nang mabuti itong mga nangyari, lalong lalo na dito sa huling biktima na may kinalaman sa isang organisasyon,” Villanueva told reporters.

(The decision to remove mandatory ROTC was not made casually or with haste. There was a deep and meticulously studied reason why it was abolished. So if we will revive it, that’s our caution. It needs to be thoroughly studied, and we should consider these incidents, especially the latest victim involving an organization.)

The senator then bared that Salilig’s death also added to his reservations on the mandatory ROTC bill.

“Kung iyong fraternity nga, voluntary. Ito ay mandatory. And you can just imagine din iyong kahandaan ng ating pamahalaan doon sa mandatory [ROTC]. Alam mo, tuwing mandatory [programs], diyan nangyayari iyong mga under-the-table etcetera,” he added.

(Take note that fraternities are voluntary. This is mandatory. You can just imagine the readiness of the government for compulsory ROTC. You know, under-the-table activities and many others happen in mandatory programs.)

Senator Nancy Binay pointed out that the mandatory ROTC program was abolished “because of corruption, abuse and hazing.”

“We need to put a stop to the decadent culture and violent tradition which have long been embedded in the system. It’s hard to understand, align and reconcile the love of country with a training course that is flawed to the core,” she said in a separate statement.

Binay also stressed that explaining why a so-called “tradition of discipline” is hounded by a long history of hazing cases is hard.

She then said that instilling discipline and love for the country in the youth is not exclusive to the ROTC program.

“Not to diminish the value of military training, but if it is indeed true that ROTC improves character and personality, how do we justify the many deaths by hazing?” she went on.

Standing ground

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, however, stood his ground as he defended his bill seeking to reinstate the mandatory ROTC program.

“Hazing and other criminal acts are also prohibited in the proposed bills reviving the two-year mandatory ROTC program. In my version of the measure, I have proposed imposing the maximum penalty under existing laws against hazing,” he said in another statement.

Estrada pushed for the Anti-Hazing Law, which outlaws the practice that has led to numerous deaths, to be strictly instead implemented.

“Hindi kailangan mangyari ang hazing sa ilalim ng ROTC program at hindi natin papayagan na isagawa ito sa ilalim ng panukalang ROTC program,” he further said.

(Hazing is not needed under the ROTC program, and we will not allow this practice to be done under the proposed ROTC program.)

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who had likewise filed a bill to make the ROTC program obligatory, asserted that the death of Salilig by hazing “was perpetuated by individuals who have no respect for the rule of law.”

“The goal of ROTC, on the other hand, is to inculcate discipline and good citizenship among the youth. It is precisely incidents like these that ROTC intends to eliminate by molding our youth to respect our country and one another,” he said in a separate statement.

‘What’s the connection?’

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa also argued that there is no seeming connection between the bid again to require the ROTC program and the fraternity-related hazing death.

“That is a desperate move, exploiting the death of a non-ROTC student to stop ROTC. Ang layo naman ng connection noon. What is the connection? Namatay siya dahil sa fraternity hazing. Hindi naman siya namatay sa ROTC training. Bakit gagamitin nila iyan na rason para hindi ituloy iyong ROTC bill? That is a very very desperate, pathetic move,” he said in an interview.

(That is a desperate move, exploiting the death of a non-ROTC student to stop ROTC. That’s a reaching connection. What is the link? He died because of fraternity hazing. He didn’t die because of ROTC training. Why will they use that as a reason to block the ROTC bill? That is a very desperate, pathetic move.)

Asked if the bid to require the ROTC program will still push through in light of Salilig’s death, dela Rosa said: “Tuloy na tuloy. Non-stop na iyan.”

(It will continue. That is non-stop.)

Dela Rosa, a staunch advocate for the revival of the mandatory ROTC program, also noted that the bill is seen to reach the Senate plenary by next week.

In a separate statement, he pointed out that the mandatory ROTC proposal seeks to establish local grievance boards and a national grievance and monitoring panel to investigate abuses committed under the program.

The former police chief said that while he does not favor banning fraternities, he is also not pro-hazing.

READ: Dela Rosa not keen on banning fraternities

Several senators have condemned the fatal hazing of 24-year-old Salilig, who, according to his autopsy report, died due to “severe blunt force trauma to the lower extremities.”

READ: Senators condemn fatal hazing of engineering student

‘Memory loss’

The League of Filipino Students (LFS) slammed dela Rosa for his “willful ignorance of the history of hazing in military training” despite cases of hazing deaths in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

“Baka may memory loss si Senator Bato o nagkukunwaring ignorante–throwback lang tayo: last 2018, sinabi mismo ni Bato na apat na taong bugbugan ang naranasan niya sa PMA at proud pa siya dito. Alam niya na bahagi na ng kultura ng PMA ang hazing bilang initiation rite, pero sinasabi niya ngayon na walang connection ng military training at mandatory ROTC?” LFS national chairperson Ivan Sucgang said in a statement.

(Does Senator Bato have memory loss, or is he pretending to be ignorant–let’s look back: Last 2018, Bato himself admitted that he experienced four years of violence in the PMA and was proud of it. He knows that hazing is part of the initiation rites in PMA culture, but he’s now saying there’s no connection between military training and mandatory ROTC?)

According to LFS, there have been six hazing deaths in the PMA since 1978.

“Ipapakalat ng mandatory ROTC ang kultura ng karahasan ng militar sa buong bansa na magdudulot pa ng mas maraming kaso ng abuso sa mga kabataan,” Sucgang warned.

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(Mandatory ROTC will spread a culture of military violence in the country, which will increase abuses against the youth.)


Adamson student died of ‘severe blunt force trauma’

Youths push for expanding NSTP instead reviving mandatory ROTC

TAGS: hazing, Senate

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