Marcos includes return of mandatory ROTC in legislative agenda

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Marcos includes return of mandatory ROTC in legislative agenda
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr (C) stands beside Vice President Sara Duterte (L) in a traditional dress after he delivered his first State of the Nation address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Monday, July 25, 2022.
Aaron Favila via AFP / pool

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his first State of the Nation Address called on Congress to pass a law that would make the controversial Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program mandatory in senior high school. 

In particular, Marcos proposed that Grades 11 and 12 students in all public and private tertiary-level educational institutions be required to enroll in the military training program, which will produce reservists for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"The aim is to motivate, train, organize and mobilize the students for national defense preparedness, including disaster preparedness and capacity building for risk-related situations," Marcos added.

This is consistent with Vice President Sara Duterte’s pronouncements in January 2022 when she said that she hoped Marcos would include making the program mandatory in his legislative agenda. Duterte is concurrently secretary of education.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte also urged Congress to revive mandatory ROTC in 2018

ROTC’s problematic past 

The ROTC program came under fire in February 2001 when Mark Welson Chua, a student from the University of Sto. Tomas, exposed the alleged corruption within his ROTC unit in an article for The Varsitarian and filed a formal complaint against his superiors. 

On March 18, 2001, Chua's lifeless body was discovered floating in the Pasig River. 

Student groups held rallies to protest the incident and led signature drives to abolish the program. 

This eventually led to the passage of Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program Act of 2001, which was signed into law on Jan. 23, 2002. This gives college students the option to choose among ROTC, Literacy Training Service and Civil Welfare Training Service as part of their required National Service Training Program. 

Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., who lobbied to make ROTC no longer required for students, said in 2001 that the program no longer made sense post-World War II due to the absence of any external threat to national defense and security.

Magsaysay also pointed out that a dismal 10 percent of 400,000 ROTC graduates went on to join the Armed Forces of the Philippines every year.   

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

In reference to Chua’s allegations of corruption in the military training program, Magsaysay also urged the defense department to stop all irregularities and malpractices committed by those running the program.

Magsaysay added that ROTC credits can be bought by making a deal with the commandant or tactical officers without undergoing actual training.


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