By ZYSA MEI ELLORAN
with reports from JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – Filipino youth groups are calling on lawmakers to address the pressing issues affecting the educator sector instead of prioritizing measures seeking to make the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) mandatory.
“Our Senators must attend to more urgent issues faced by students—there’s an ongoing learning poverty and mental health crisis. Reviving mandatory ROTC in schools will only worsen the situation of students across the country,” Joshua Aquiler, spokesperson of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said in a statement.
The youth group said lawmakers are hellbent on fast-tracking the passing of the bill that will make this mandatory among students, citing the need for instilling “discipline” and “nationalism” among them. Among its primary authors in the Senate include former police chief Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa.
To be able to carry out the mandatory military training for students, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reportedly estimated that they need about P16 to P20 billion in funds to fully implement it by 2026.
This is despite the deficiencies in the education sector that Vice President and education secretary Sara Duterte presented in her 2023 Basic Education Report last month. The agency’s findings said that only a third of the 327,851 classrooms in the country are in good condition, while more than half need minor and major repairs, and six percent are set for condemnation.
Read: Sara Duterte’s basic education report mum on teachers’ urgent demands
“Reviving mandatory ROTC in schools is aimed at indoctrinating students to turn them into simple automatons incapable of critical thinking much to the likes of Bato—and we refuse to be molded as such,” Aquiler added.
Meanwhile, the NUSP added that Dela Rosa has “nowhere near the moral high ground to impose ‘discipline’ and ‘nationalism’ on us students.”
During his stint as police chief, Dela Rosa led Duterte’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
Read: Back to the past: The return of ROTC
“Students are already self-organizing, practicing their sense of community and service in various ways. Mandatory ROTC, with its long-running history of abuse, power play, and violence, will inculcate nothing but a culture of impunity in schools,” Aquiler said. (RVO)