“We call on the Filipino youth and students to denounce this campaign of fear being perpetrated by the administration. Let us make them hear our demands, let us mobilize, let us show them that we will not be intimidated by their tactics.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Progressive youth groups expressed alarm over President Duterte’s recent approval to revive compulsory army training among youths, this time among senior high school students.
Kabataan partylist said this, along with other recent militarist efforts by the Duterte administration “further intensify fascism by the hour.” Following Duterte’s cancellation of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on Feb. 4, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced an “all-out war” against the New People’s Army.
In a Cabinet meeting held Tuesday, Feb. 7, Duterte approved the revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) for Grades 11 and 12 in all public and private schools. The President had certified as urgent the proposed amendment to Republic Act 7077, the Citizens’ Armed Forces of the Philippines Reservist Act that will make ROTC mandatory.
The ROTC has been optional and voluntary since the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act was passed in 2001.
“No thanks to the US imperialist plot, through their cohorts in the Cabinet and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), President Duterte is moving to the dark side,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago said in a statement.
“We reiterate that aside from inculcating false patriotism among the young students, mandatory ROTC will justify further militarization and attacks on the democratic rights and freedoms of students in schools.” she said.
Kabataan Partylist has filed House Bill 2399 or the “ROTC Abolition Act of 2016” in August last year.
“The mandatory ROTC in senior high school is a crucial part of this campaign as it seeks to instill blind obedience in the minds of the youth. All of these policies seek to create an atmosphere of fear among the Filipino people, to cow us into submission” said National Union of Students in the Philippines spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim.
“We expect more human rights violations to be committed, with the AFP unleashing manic violence regardless of civilian casualties,” the group said.
NUSP has started an online petition against the revival of the mandatory ROTC in schools. The petition said that the AFP through the ROTC “only inculcates the military culture of corruption and political patronage, sexism and machismo, human rights violations, and ideological bigotry, which is inconsistent with academic freedom and is detrimental to the development of the youth.”
The petition said that making ROTC mandatory is an injustice to Mark Welson Chua, a University of Santo Tomas student who was murdered after exposing corruption among ROTC officials and cases of their abuses on cadets. Chua’s death led to the enactment of the NSTP law, which made ROTC voluntary.
Just last year, Gabriela Youth exposed a case in Benguet State University where cadets were physically abused and “were forced to masturbate in front of their ROTC officers.” Female cadets were also forced to sleep in the male officers’ office.
“We call on the Filipino youth and students to denounce this campaign of fear being perpetrated by the administration. Let us make them hear our demands, let us mobilize, let us show them that we will not be intimidated by their tactics,” said Lim.
Gabriela youth said it is “dangerous for the youth to be exposed to a program that emboldens and justifies committing human rights violations and abuses against the people.” The group challenged Duterte to “not to let the fascist military and US imperialism gain from this situation.”