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Militant youths launch anti-ROTC signature drive

- Romel Bagares -
Militant youth groups launched yesterday a campaign to gather one million signatures for the abolition of the Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC).

The youth groups, led by Anakbayan, said they would barricade today the gates of the University of the East (UE) in Caloocan City and the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) and the Far Eastern University (FEU), both in Sampaloc, Manila to draw more support for their campaign.

ROTC cadets at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City are also expected to stage a walkout today to support the drive.

"We will hold barricades, walkouts and community service in the next two Sundays," said Anakbayan secretary general Apolinario Alvarez. He said these mass actions would be part of the nationwide campaign of the newly formed ABOLISH! Network which seeks to dismantle the mandatory military training of college male students.

Alvarez said his group, along with the League of Filipino Students, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, will mobilize thousands of ROTC cadets to join protests at the Batasang Pambansa on July 23 during President Arroyo’s first State of the Nation Address.

The campaign was triggered by the death of Mark Chua, an engineering student of UST, who was abducted and killed last March after he exposed alleged anomalies in the ROTC program of his university.

The Department of Defense, which oversees the ROTC program in all schools, posthumously honored Chua for his courage but the gesture has not appeased student activists who denounced the training program as "anachronistic" and "irrelevant."

The DND stressed that Chua’s death was an "isolated case" and should not be used to justify the abolition of the ROTC.

However, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes admitted that the ROTC needs some reorientation. He said the military is considering to streamline the program to provide quality training to volunteer reservists numbering at least 250,000 a year.

He said that should the streamlining succeed, it would trim down to 25,000 the number of volunteer trainees. Other college students will then be given the option to render community service or be trained in law enforcement.

ANAKBAYAN

APOLINARIO ALVAREZ

BATASANG PAMBANSA

CALOOCAN CITY AND THE UNIVERSITY OF STO

CHUA

COLLEGE EDITORS GUILD OF THE PHILIPPINES

DEFENSE SECRETARY ANGELO REYES

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

FAR EASTERN UNIVERSITY

LEAGUE OF FILIPINO STUDENTS

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