Youth solon hits mandatory ROTC, warns of militarization in schools
Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago on Wednesday opposed the proposal of Malacañang to make the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) mandatory, warning that the program promotes militarization in schools.
In a press briefing, Elago said the ROTC has been abused and only served as a breeding ground for violence and corruption.
She said the program became a “hotbed” for corruption because students were forced to serve their superiors and even pay them cash in exchange for passing grades in the ROTC.
Elago said instead of instilling nationalism among the youth, the ROTC has resulted in violence against the cadets who suffer abuse or humiliation by their superior officers.
“Years after its implementation, ROTC was proven irrelevant in fostering discipline, social responsibility, and patriotism in the youth,” Elago said.
She also said the Armed Forces of the Philippines take advantage of the ROTC to militarize schools and target progressive student groups in its counter-insurgency campaign.
Elago said ROTC also promotes a “military culture” that infringes on academic freedom.
The use of schools as military barracks also run counter to Republic Act 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act,” which states that “public infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, and rural health units shall not be utilized for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments, and supply depots,” she said.
Elago said instead of making ROTC mandatory, the program should be abolished for promoting corruption and abuse in the schools.
“(The ROTC) became a hotbed for abuses including corruption, bribery, extortion, collection of unauthorized and excessive fees, and physical and verbal violence. It became nothing but a burden to students. It is time that we abolish this vestige of militarism in our schools,” Elago said.
Elago said she has filed House Bill 2399, which seeks to abolish the ROTC and strengthen instead the National Service Training Program (NSTP).
In her bill, Elago said despite the Duterte administration’s claim of reinstating mandatory ROTC to instill “love of country and good citizenship,” the program became “irrelevant in fostering discipline, social responsibility, and patriotism in the youth.”
Elago instead proposed activities to improve the NSTP, such as comprehensive community service, community-based health and nutrition program, community immersion, disaster preparedness, ecological services, and human rights education.
“President Duterte, we agree that there is a need to instill nationalism in our youth, but imposing compulsory ROTC is not the way to go. There are better solutions for greater youth involvement in nation-building, ones which do not subscribe to the militarist approach of the ROTC,” Elago said.
Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the revival of the mandatory ROTC was discussed during the Monday Cabinet meeting because President Rodrigo Duterte wanted to instill nationalism among the youth.
“Yung ROTC revived para kasi wala na raw ‘yung, hindi na nai-instill ‘yung discipline, ‘yung love of country (The ROTC would be revived to instill discipline and love of country [among the students]),” Panelo said.
Under the Republic Act 9163 or the NSTP Act of 2001 passed under the Arroyo administration, the ROTC program became “optional and voluntary.”
The ROTC program for a reserve military force in terms of war or calamity was first made mandatory under the Republic Act 7077 or the Citizen Armed Forces or Armed Forces of the Philippines Reservist Act of 1991. JE
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