MANILA - Giving youth groups the chance to air their sentiments against the revival of mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) for college students in the Senate does not necessarily mean they should be followed, Senator Ronaldo Dela Rosa said on Monday.
Dela Rosa made this comment when asked if he considers the suggestion of Akbayan Youth Chairperson Justine Rapahel Balane and Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) Chairperson Ken Paolo Gilo during the resumption of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education public hearing on the revival of the ROTC.
"Pinakinggan ka namin. Tama na yung pinakinggan ka at least nalaman namin yung side ninyo. Kung ayaw niyo ng ROTC, gusto naman namin ng ROTC (We listened to you. Hearing you is enough, at least, we knew your side. If you do not want ROTC, we want ROTC)," Dela Rosa told Senate reporters.
During the hearing chaired by Dela Rosa, Gilo called for the expansion of the National Service Training Program (NSTP) instead of reviving the ROTC.
"We support the call to expand NSTP instead. Students who want to be reserve officers, community volunteers or teachers should all be supported," Gilo said. "Instead of adding a budget for two years of ROTC, why not repurpose these funds and address the 91,000 classrooms shortage? This will improve conditions of our schools and for the hundreds of thousands of learners who cannot afford a college education."
Dela Rosa said despite the implementation of the NSTP for last 21 years, the literacy rate remains low among the youth.
"Maganda sana ang purpose niyan pero siguro sa implementation (NSTP has a good purpose but maybe [the problem lies in] its implementation)," the former Philippine National Police chief said.
He also allayed fears that the proposed ROTC revival would only focus on militarism ideology.
Stated in the Constitution
Dela Rosa cited the Article II Section IV of The Constitution that says "the prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people. The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal military or civil service."
He said this provision of the Constitution gives the government the right to choose for its citizens whether to join military service in times of war or crisis.
"Paano ngayon kung gusto ng gobyerno na mag-render ka ng (What if the government is asking you to render) military service because we are under attack or invasion? Ano ang maibigay mong military service kung wala kang (what military service can you provide if you do not have) military background?" Dela Rosa said.
Timeline and commitment
Dela Rosa is hoping he can deliver his sponsorship speech on the proposed ROTC revival bill before the Senate adjourns its regular session on March 25 and possibly ratify the measure before the end of the year.
"So, next year, idadagdag na ng DND [Department of National Defense] sa budget requirements nila yung implementation ng ROTC. Siguro 2024 mag-start na sila ng (the DND will add in their budget requirements the implementation of ROTC. Maybe in 2024 they can already start the) implementation," he said.
DND Secretary Carlito Galvez personally attended the hearing and assured the senators that the revival of the ROTC will further motivate, train, organize and mobilize students for national defense preparedness, including disaster preparedness and capacity building to risk related situations.
"We will, in the defense department, particularly how we can implement the reinstitution of the mandatory ROTC program in the tertiary and vocational levels given our current circumstances," Galvez said.
"For the information of everybody, the Armed Forces (of the Philippines) is very, very professional and I would like to thank that the AFP after being rated as number 1 and the best institution in terms of service," he added. (PNA)