Dela Rosa takes mandatory ROTC bill to Senate floor: We’ve learned from past mistakes
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa has taken the controversial mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) bill to the Senate floor.
Dela Rosa, a staunch advocate for the bid to revive the compulsory ROTC program, sponsored the proposed measure on Wednesday, stressing the need to mandate military training for the youth to ensure they are “fully equipped to heed the call to defend the nation when the need arises.”
“Ang ROTC ay hindi lamang isang academic requirement ngunit institutionalized na pakikipagkapwa tao. Higit sa banta ng pananakop ng ibang mga bansa o mga kalamidad, baka hindi na natin namamalayan na nalupig at nasalanta na ang ating bayan ng kawalang pakialam,” he said.
(ROTC is not just an academic requirement but a standardized way to be one with the community. More than the threats of invasion or calamities, we may not realize that the country has been defeated and crippled by apathy.)
The plan to revive the obligatory enforcement of ROTC in the country has sparked opposition from students, youth groups, and lawmakers, who recalled the reason why it was abolished in the first place.
A University of Santo Tomas student was brutally murdered in 2001 after he exposed alleged corruption in his school’s military training program, prompting the government to abolish mandatory ROTC.
Dela Rosa, former national police chief, said it was “normal” to fear the program stained by accusations of corruption and abuses, but he remained firm in reinstituting it.
“Naniniwala ako na may pagkatuto mula sa pagkakamali ng nakaraan. Nasa atin ngayon ang lahat ng oportunidad upang siguraduhin na hindi ito mangyayari,” he said.
(I believe we have learned from our mistakes in the past. Now, we can make sure this won’t happen again.)
The bill, according to Dela Rosa, seeks to establish grievance boards in each ROTC unit, with a national panel to prevent abuse, violence, or corruption.
“Hindi lang sila maghihintay ng mga reklamo mula sa mga estudyante o guro. Sila na mismo ang magiging masigasig sa pagbabantay ng ating mga ROTC cadets at instructors,” he added.
(They won’t just wait for complaints from students or teachers. They will actively monitor our ROTC cadets and instructors.)
Under the proposed ROTC law, the youth will receive basic military and police training and develop practical knowledge and skills for emergencies and disasters.
In his bid to sway his fellow senators to back the bill, Dela Rosa cited the doctrine of parens patriae, which recognizes the role of the state as guardians of its people. He underscored the responsibility of the government in shaping the youth to face the “unknown future.”
The Department of National Defense (DND), which will be among the main implementers of the ROTC, initially said there would be financial and logistical concerns that need to be addressed before imposing the program again.
The DND later backtracked as it vowed to do its best to implement the program given its “current set of circumstances.”
High-ranking government officials support the reinstatement of mandatory ROTC.
Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Duterte had expressed hope to have this included in the priority legislative agenda of the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Meanwhile, Marcos, during his first State of the Nation Address in July last year, called on Congress to pass a law requiring ROTC for senior high school students.