6 of 10 Pinoys favor ROTC; gov’t told to promote peace

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SIX of 10 Filipinos favor a proposal to reinstate student military training — dropped two decades ago after a university student who exposed corruption in the program died — a senator said in a statement on Wednesday.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, citing a Pulse Asia Research, Inc. poll that he commissioned, said 69% of Filipinos agree with the plan, which he said was also supported across socioeconomic groups.

The Child Rights Network in a statement said mandatory military training for students violates international commitments on child human rights and existing laws.

The lawmaker has a refiled a bill seeking to revive the military training for Grades 11 and 12 students to ensure the country has enough soldiers during war. The bill is part of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s priority agenda.

The program will include basic military training for defense preparedness or civil-military operations. Students younger than 18 won’t have to take part in a war, according to a copy of the bill.

Students who fail to take the course can’t graduate unless they are psychologically and physically unfit. Varsity players will be exempted.

“Introducing mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in senior high school is neither warranted nor needed,” Child Rights Network convenor Romeo Dongeto said in the statement.

“To revive mandatory ROTC is to backtrack on decades-long developments that made the program no longer required in the first place,” he added.

He said mandatory military training for senior high school students undermines international commitments on the protection of children from compulsory recruitment into the armed forces.

“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,” Mr. Dongeto said.

The state should instead follow the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recommendation in 2008 to promote the values of peace and respect for human rights. These should become basic subjects, he said.

Ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte had also sought to revive the ROTC, which the Education department in 2019 said could cost as much as P23 billion.

Mr. Gatchalian, who filed the bill in the past Congress, had said the Senate would not support the ROTC revival if it would cost that much. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan