TWO CONGRESS bills are seeking to restore the mandatory nature of the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) only four years after Republic Act (RA) 9163 made it optional in order to check the excesses and abuses of a compulsory ROTC.

Senate Bill 2224 (SB 2224) by Sen. Alfredo Lim seeks to make ROTC mandatory for male and female students while House Bill 5460 (HB 5460) by Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas seeks to make ROTC mandatory for males but optional for females.

SB 2224 is now on its first reading in the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture and the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, while HB 5460 is also on its first reading in the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education.

The two bills seek to repeal RA 9163, or the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act, which made ROTC optional and introduced two programs that college students could take in lieu of ROTC: the Literacy Training Service (LTS), in which students teach out-of-school youth; and the Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS), which mobilizes student participation in community activities such as building houses for the poor.

The NSTP law was passed by Congress after the University Belt Consortium, an informal gathering of universities in Manila led by UST and other leading higher education institutions, called for the abolition of the ROTC in the aftermath of the killing of Mark Chua, a UST cadet officer who had exposed corruption in the ROTC.

Chua was brutally killed by his fellow cadet officers, two of whom remain at large.

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If the bills pass, LTS and CWTS will be dissolved and leave students with no option but to take up ROTC in order to render national service.

Former UST Rector and Commission on Higher Education Chair Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. warned that restoring the mandatory nature of ROTC might revive the excesses of the old program.

“The ROTC has helped in perpetuating the image of the military as machine men,” De la Rosa, the assistant to the rector for research and development, said. “Their presence elicits fear, seldom respect. Students are hushed in the face of maltreatment and abuse. Those with money simply buy their way out of the Sunday training. Still, others prefer complacency to reasoned questioning and judgment.”

Lack of reservists

In his bill’s explanatory note, Lim said there has been a drastic drop in the number of ROTC enrollees since the CWTS and LTS programs were launched in 2001. He said that on a national level, only 80,000 students volunteer to take ROTC compared to the 260,000 enrollees when it was still mandatory.

Lim, a retired police major general, said his bill has constitutional basis since Article II of the Philippine Constitution states that “the government may call upon the people to defend the state and to render personal, military or civil service.”

“Most of the students are now signing up for CWTS/LTS instead of ROTC when we already lack reserved officers,” Alejandrino Malilin, former UST-ROTC deputy corps commander, told the Varsitarian. “I have nothing against CWTS and LTS, they are both good programs, but the problem is there’s no balance.”

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Manalilin said that since 2002, there has been a continuous decline in the number of cadets in UST—from 4,000 enrollees in 2002 to 800-1000 cadets in 2005.

“It’s affecting our national security when we are not training enough ROTC graduates to man our reserved units,” Pete Banzon, UST-ROTC alumnus and consultant of the proposed bills, said. “We have 13 stand-by divisions and 70 able-reserved battalions in the Philippines, but they are all under-manned and lacks volunteers from the ROTC program.”

In UST, 1,098 applicants are enrolled this semester in the ROTC program compared to the number of enrollees from 1998-2000 that ranged from 1,099 to 2,878 cadets.

No to ROTC

But many UST officials are opposed to the bills.

“I have no objections against mandatory ROTC program. It’s the implementation and the persons in charge who are the ones in question,” Vice Rector Fr. Juan Ponce O.P. said.

“Patriotism is not only developed in a military course,” said Lito Maranan, NSTP director. “Those students taking up CWTS who are able to build houses for others, are they not patriotic enough? Those who bring medical missions to the far-flung areas, are they not serving enough? What’s the need for militarization?”

UST ROTC alumni said the program must be mandatory but said it should be upgraded.

“The curriculum should be upgraded, to cope up with the changes of the time,” lawyer Yeshter Donn Baccay, national commander of the UST-Golden Corps Cadets, said. “It should have military and combat training but it must also focus on rescue operations and disaster management,”

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According to Baccay, the alumni association of UST Golden Corps of Cadets will be submitting a resolution to Lim and Gullas, suggesting that ROTC must have at least an hour of lecture on military technicalities.

In the resolution, it is proposed that the academic aspect of ROTC will be controlled by the deans and the University to oversee the ROTC system.

“ROTC is not about discipline per se,” Joyce Dela Cruz, UST-Corps Commander said. “People often mistake it as such because of the visibility of the drills, and most of them are unaware of the class discussions that are being held every Sunday and the outreach programs that we also do.”

But student groups warned that a mandatory ROTC is being revived amid military crackdown on dissent and free speech on campus.

According to Tanggulan Network, a human rights watchdog, the old ROTC was part of the military’s counter-insurgency program to check student activists, fraternities, student councils, and school publications.

“It’s funny how the military and their allies in Congress keep on insisting that ROTC develops service, discipline and patriotism yet it operates in an environment where cadets are indoctrinated with the do-or-die mindset and are reduced to blind followers,” Kabataan Party chair Raymond Palatino said. J. L. G. A., J. S. C., M. J. P. C. & H. D. H.

6 COMMENTS

  1. For me, malaki po ang tulong kung ibabalik ang ROTC as mandatory. sa school po kasi namin, only 65 cadets lang ang enrolled sa ROTC at balak po ng administration na tanggalin po ito dahil daw sa few numbers of cadets enrolled. Pero kung tutuusin napakalaking tulong ang nakukuha nila sa aming mga ROTC officers.
    Sana po maging mandatory na. Madami na kasing hindi nag-eenroll sa ROTC. Tignan niyo din po sana ‘yung side ng mga unit na pinipilit ang lahat para pagandahin at maiangat ang ROTC.

  2. ROTC is not the real answer!!!! rescue trainig and preparedness programs are the asnwer. Saanong bagay nakakatulong ang pag pasa pasa ng candy sa mga bibig as a punishment? Pwedeng mag ka sakit ang mga students dito!!also it donot aid the acedemic mission of the school.

    • You do not know what you are talking about. Research first before speaking out. There is so much more to ROTC/WATC than the bad image detractors are giving out. Yes, it does need a rehab and upgraded program to help us be prepared to defend our country if the need arises.

  3. ROTC does NOT belong in schools. What are we trying to do? start another war like Hitler did? Teens need to learn peaceful ways to interact, not kill each other!!!

    • first and foremost…. where’s your brain whilst typing your comment??
      ROTC is not about KILLING…. (jeez)

      ROTC MISSION: TO TRAIN & DEVELOP COLLEGE STUDENTS IN THE RUDIMENTS OF MILITARY SERVICE AND TO PRODUCE CAPABLE RESERVIST OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES

      basically ROTC is making RESERVISTS…. so that if a bloody war break out.. WE COULD DEFEND our country from the invaders…

  4. you did not clarify how the ROTC “had greatly helped” your school, you just kept saying that it had so without specifying how.

    sa anong paraan sila nakatutulong? legitimizing mental and emotional torture by “decorated punks” on those who they feel like needing the beating? is that it??

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