MANILA - The House of Representatives has approved on 2nd reading a bill requiring Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) training for senior high school students.
House Bill No. 8961 establishes a mandatory basic ROTC program for students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12 in public and private schools as requisite for graduation.
The bill also lays down exemptions:
- Those physically or psychologically unfit as certified by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Surgeon General or his authorized medical officer
- Those who have undergone or are undergoing similar military training
- Those who were chosen by their school to serve as varsity players in sports competitions
- Those exempt from training for valid reasons as approved by the Department of National Defense
Graduates of basic ROTC will be eligible for commissionship through lateral entry and enlistment in the AFP, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and Bureau of Fire Protection.
Students undergoing basic and advance ROTC training will be provided free hospitalization in any government hospital in case of accident or injury during the training.
Makabayan bloc lawmakers slammed the development, saying mandatory ROTC has a "long history and culture of abuse, corruption, and impunity."
"Instead of addressing the woes on basic education caused by and worsened by K to 12 (Kindergarten to 12 years program), Duterte and Congress prioritize subjecting students to mandatory military service (ROTC) instead, which is a 'hotbed of abuses'," Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago said in a statement.
K to 12 is the education reform program introduced during the previous administration which added two years to the 10-year basic education cycle.
Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) also condemned the approval of the bill, saying the debate was "cut short to pave the way for hurried voting."
"We were ready to inquire if there was indeed any investigation conducted over the slew of rape and sexual harassment cases perpetrated by ROTC officers, and if anyone has been held accountable for the abuses against young women," it said.
"Unfortunately, the House leadership wanted the dirt to be swept under the rug with the hasty approval of the measure on second reading."
Mandatory military training in college was made optional in 2002 following the death of Mark Chua, a University of Santo Tomas student who was allegedly slain by course officers after exposing fund mismanagement.
ROTC is now one of the three components of the National Service Training Program (NSTP), a civic education and defense preparedness program for students, along with Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) and Literacy Training Service (LTS).