Kabataan Party bucks ROTC reinstatement, says yes to youth social involvement

By INA ALLECO R. SLVERIO
Bulatlat.com

There’s no way they are going to allow ROTC training become mandatory again.

Kabataan Party-List and the youth and students organization Anakbayan have declared their determination to oppose proposals to once more make ROTC or the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) mandatory in all colleges and universities nationwide.

In a hearing of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education in Congress recently, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino said he will stand against what he termed were “dangerous proposals to reverse and disregard the gains of students in their fight against an unrightful military training.” The youth lawmaker said that the ROTC has done more evil than good to those who underwent its training program.

The ROTC was mandatory to all college students since World War II but was incorporated into and became just one of the options in the National Service Training Program by virtue of Republic Act No. 9163 in 2001 after strong protests from students, faculty and administrative officials.

“The ROTC has taught its cadets how to become blind and docile servants. With its grim and bloody human rights record, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has no right to meddle with the academic affairs of our youth. A war-mongering and mercenary institution must not be allowed to infiltrate schools and teach students,” he said.

It is well known that the training system of ROTC is essentially lifted from that of the AFP. Palatino blasted the claim that the AFP-run program teaches the students how to be patriotic. Among the main reasons for the protests against the ROTC was the murder of University of Santo Tomas student Mark Chua who exposed irregularities in the ROTC unit of the university.

ROTC threatens academic freedom

“The AFP uses the program in its red-baiting campaign against progressive student groups. In many ROTC lectures, soldier-instructors conveniently tagged student activist groups as affiliated with the New People’s Army. The ROTC is clearly a threat to academic freedom,” Palatino said.

This is not the first time that moves have been made to revive the ROTC. In 2006, Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas filed a bill calling for it. He said that restoring ROTC “will motivate, train, organize and mobilize students for national defense” and that in the event that the country needs to defend the state, so that will be prepared for the contingency to render personal, military or civil service.”

In 2010, Gullas refilled the proposal. As expected, the AFP and military formations such as the Reserve Officers’ Legion of the Philippines are fully supportive of moves to reinstate the ROTC.

Youth organizations are not having any of that, however.

As an alternative, Palatino said that Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001 should be strengthened. He himself has already filed House Bill 2355 or the NSTP Reform Bill to incorporate provisions to strengthen and expand the social and civic service components of the NSTP.

“The bill aims to inculcate the value of nationalism, social consciousness and responsibility in the youth, and for the youth to assist the government agencies in the delivery of basic social services to the people. The nation needs an army of volunteers and advocates to fight the threats of illiteracy, of political and social apathy, and the perpetuation of social inequities that continue to obstruct genuine national progress,” Palatino explained

Youth serving society

The youth solon said the aims of his reform bill are fairly straightforward.

The proposal adds several civilian programs to the NSTP: General Community Service Program; Community Based Health and Nutrition Program; Community Immersion Program; Disaster Preparedness Program; Ecological Services Program; Human Rights Education and Advocacy Program; and other similar programs that the school, in consultation with the school’s student councils and student organizations, and with the approval of the Commission on Higher Education, may implement.

“The General Community Service Program aims to train students in basic services which may include systemic and rational tree planting, street cleaning, waste segregation, traffic management and other related activities. The Community Based Health and Nutrition Program aims to train students in health and nutrition education,” he said.

In the meantime, the provision on the implementation of a Community Immersion Program aims to strengthen social consciousness of students through exposure and immersion among basic sectors. The Disaster Preparedness Program, for its part, is designed to train students in disaster prevention and preparedness in the event of natural calamities. Similarly, the Ecological Services Program is designed to train students in environmental protection and awareness activities.

Students are also encouraged to learn about human rights through the proposed addition to the NTSP, the Human Rights Education and Advocacy Program. ()

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