Why ROTC is no longer mandatory

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Why ROTC is no longer mandatory
President Rodrigo Duterte wants to reinstate mandatory ROTC training for Grade 11 and 12 students.
Faceboo / Army Reserve Command

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte, once again, has urged the Congress to enact a law that would revive the mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps or he would issue an executive order that would make it so.

A bill reinstituting the mandatory ROTC for Grades 11 and 12 students in public and private schools nationwide is pending before the House of Representatives.

Duterte said he wanted to require mandatory ROTC for senior high school students to "instill patriotism" and "love of country among our youth."

What Duterte didn't mention in his call to make ROTC mandatory is why the program was made optional in 2001.

On Jan. 23, 2002, Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program Act of 2001 was signed into, allowing college students to choose between ROTC, Literacy Training Service and Civil Welfare Training Service as part of their required National Service Training Program.

Twitter user Emmanuel Cocina pointed out that corruption was rampant when ROTC was compulsory.

"Back when it was mandatory, students paid their officers so that they won't undergo the program but still get a passing grade," Cocina said.

Death of UST cadet Mark Chua

Concina recalled that a University of Santo Tomas student and cadet exposed this practice. His body was later found floating in the Pasig River.

Mark Chua, along with fellow cadet Romulo Yumul, disclosed the corruption in the university's ROTC program in The Varsitarian's Feb. 21, 2001 issue.

According to a March 18, 2018 report from The Varsitarian, the story titled "Struggle Against the System" revealed the formal complaint of Chua and Yumul against Maj. Demy Tejares, the commandant of the UST ROTC unit, and other Department of Military Science and Tactics officials.

Chua went missing after the story was published and his father Welson received a call claiming that the UST student was kidnapped.

On March 18, 2001, Chua's body was found floating in the Pasig River. His body was wrapped in a carpet, his face covered with masking tape and his hands were tied.

In 2004, a Manila court found ROTC cadet Arnufo Aparri Jr. guilty of killing Chua. He was sentenced to death and was ordered to pay the family a 50,000-peso indemnity. However, Aparri's sentenced was downgraded to life imprisonment without parole when the death penalty was abolished in 2006.

Another accused, Eduardo Tabrilla, pleaded guilty to homicide in 2006 while the other two involved — Paul Tan and Michael Manangbao — are still at large, according to The Varsitarian.

Road to ROTC reform

Chua's death led to a series of protests by student activist groups, who planned barricades and launched a signature drive to abolish the ROTC program.

Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., who had committed to working for the abolition of mandatory ROTC, said in 2001 that while the program made sense in the Philippines before World War II, the situation had changed since then.

He said that with the absence of external threats to national defense and security, a focus on military training was no longer necessary.

He also pointed out that the Armed Forces of the Philippines only recruited around 10 percent of the 400,000 cadets who graduated from the program yearly, indicating, he said, that most students were not interested in a career in the military.

"I believe students should instead have the option to take up community service or related subjects that will enhance their performance of civic duties," he said then.

He also urged the Defense department to stop all irregularities and malpractice in the ROTC program, noting that students had been able to bypass the requirement of attending training through deals with officers.

Angelo Reyes, Defense secretary at the time, had acknowledged the need for an update to the ROTC law but said the Armed Forces of the Philippines still needs to have a reserve force.

"I am entertaining the idea of taking in only 25,000 cadets every year whom we can give proper training, allowance and other benefits. With this, we'll have a smaller but higher quality reserve force," he said then.

Sen. Renato Cayetano, who was the bill's principal sponsor at the Senate, said when it was passed into law, said that it was important for the Filipino youth to "be motivated, trained, organized and mobilized in military training, literacy and civic welfare." 

"Finally, college students are now given a choice on how to participate in nation-building through civic consciousness aside from the ROTC which was imposed 76 years ago," he said at the time.

The law made the NSTP mandatory for all college students while the mandatory ROTC program it replaced only covered males.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 18, 2023 - 3:50pm

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo says President Rodrigo Duterte wants the mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps revived to instill discipline on the youth. 

Last week, Duterte, who admitted that he did not finish the course that used to be a requirement at that time, has again urged Congress to enact a law that would make ROTC mandatory.



A bill that will make ROTC compulsory for Grades 11 and 12 students in public and private schools is already pending at the House of Representatives and is just awaiting approval from lawmakers. 

Last year, the president revealed that as an undergraduate he presented the X-ray results of a man with tuberculosis so he wouldn't have to undergo the ROTC. 

He said he didn't want to take the course as he does not like the idea of getting shouted at.

June 18, 2023 - 3:50pm

Youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan rejects Sen. Ronald dela Rosa's argument that membership in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps should me mandatory as a constitutional duty of every Filipino.

"Dela Rosa demands that Filipino students undertake mandatory military training in the name of patriotism. This kind of patriotism endangers national security by militarizing our youth and providing cannon fodder to the US forces that he himself has been critical of," John Lazaro, SPARK national coordinator, says in a statement..

May 4, 2023 - 1:05pm

A Social Weather Station survey released Thursday shows that 42% of Filipinos believe that the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or ROTC should be optional as a course. An alternative would be community service.

Meanwhile 35% believe it should be compulsory for Senior High School students while 22% said ROTC should not be in the curriculum of students.

December 15, 2022 - 6:37pm

In a 276-4-1 vote, the House of Representatives approves the National Citizens Service Training Program Act which critics say is a rebranding of the controversial ROTC program abolished following the death of UST cadet Mark Welson Chua. — Xave Gregorio

July 9, 2019 - 12:11pm

Youth activist group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan slams Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa for allegedly mocking Filipinos calling on the government to protect the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by saying they do not even want to enroll in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

"Unfortunately, it is common for uncritical Filipinos to parrot these same fallacious, uninformed opinions. Not surprisingly, mandatory ROTC defenders jump to the conclusion that one is automatically seeking war if one is against the unlawful intrusion into the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone of the Chinese government and military. This is the vulgar 'basis' that allows them to mock those who are against ROTC, spouting brainless and unnecessary remarks on social media such as "Gusto niyo giyerahin ang China, pero ayaw niyo sa ROTC.", etc," SPARK says in a press release.

"Filipinos are still divided on their opinions about ROTC, but this military program for students, disguised as a means 'to develop discipline and nationalism,' appears to be no more than a mere tool for oppression and to train more puppies to grow into obedient lapdogs to the reactionary government," the group also says.

June 3, 2019 - 7:55pm

President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent the bill seeking to restore the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.

In a letter sent to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Duterte says restoring basic military and leadership trainings for the youth would reinvigorate their sense of nationalism.

These qualities are necessary in defending the state and in further promoting the youth's vital role in nation building, he adds.

Once a bill is certified urgent by the president, Congress can pass it on second and final reading on the same day. 

The House of Representatives passed on final reading the bill reviving mandatory ROTC for Grades 11 and 12 students last month. The Senate's version of the measure is still in the period of interpellation. 

The mandatory ROTC program was abolished after former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the National Service Training Program (NSTP) law in 2002. 

Under the law, ROTC is just one of the three NSTP components students can choose from along with Civic Welfare Training Service, and the Literacy Training Service. 

— The STAR/Alexis Romero 

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