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Cebu News

Child rights advocates buck mandatory ROTC     

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — An alliance of child rights advocates has called on President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to reconsider his position on the reintroduction of mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program for senior high school students.

Child Rights Network (CRN) believes that bringing back the ROTC program is not necessary and may only expose children to developing various risk behaviors.

“With all due respect, we call on President Marcos Jr. to listen to children’s rights advocates and engage us in a scientific, level-minded, and balanced discussion on the proposal at hand. For CRN, the move to introduce mandatory ROTC in senior high school is not new, and so are the arguments supposedly supporting it. Child rights advocates throughout the country remain firm and united in our stance on this issue: introducing mandatory ROTC in senior high school is neither warranted nor needed,” CRN Convenor Romeo Dongeto said in a statement.

 In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), the president has pushed for the revival of ROTC program in senior high school for both public and private educational institutions.  The President explained that this is to motivate, train, organize and mobilize the students for national defense preparedness, including disaster preparedness and capacity building for risk-related situations.

For Dongeto, reviving ROTC is to “backtrack on decades-long developments that made the program no longer required in the first place.”

Dongeto added that to introduce mandatory military training for senior high school students is tantamount to the country reneging on existing international commitments on the protection of children from compulsory recruitment into the armed forces.

He said that introducing a militarist course in senior high school, at a time when students are at the height of their adolescence period, may also make them vulnerable to developing various risk behaviors sensitive to adverse and negative experiences which could impact them throughout their lifetime.

“Instead of instilling militarist lessons on children, we urge the government to again follow UNCRC’s recommendation in 2008 for the state to develop and implement training programs and campaign to promote the values of peace and respect for human rights and include the subject of peace education and human rights as a fundamental subject in the education system,”

Dongeto added.

Instead of passing a law that will reintroduce mandatory ROTC, CRN called on the 19th Congress to focus its attention on passing laws that will safeguard the rights and welfare of children.

Primary among these proposals is the proposed Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) Bill, which was ratified by the 18th Congress last May but was not signed into law.

Apart from the Anti-OSAEC Bill, CRN also called for the reintroduction of the Positive and Non-Violent Discipline Bill, a bill that seeks to protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence by prohibiting beating, kicking, slapping, or lashing on any part of a child's body, with or without the use of an instrument such as broom, cane, whip, or belt.

CRN is the largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines. — FPL  (FREEMAN)

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