“We should continue to oppose these forms of suppression on people’s rights as well as efforts of Duterte and his ilk to establish a full-blown dictatorship.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Makabayan bloc assailed the passage of the Lower House of the bill requiring senior high school students to undergo the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) last Monday, May 20.
In a statement, Gabriela Women’s Party condemned the approval of House Bill 8961 on third and final reading despite the lack of substantive debates. The group pointed out that the “period of interpellation and debate on the bill was cut short in February to give way for its hasty approval on second reading.”
“We in Gabriela were not given a chance to interpellate the sponsors of the bill on the prevalence of rape and sexual abuses committed by ROTC officers,” the group said in a statement.
They also warned of possible railroading of bills that is under the priority list of President Duterte such as the lowering of minimum age of criminal responsibility and amendments to the Human Security Act.
On Monday, as soon as the House of Representatives resumed its session, the Lower House voted for the passage of House Bill 8961with 167 votes in favor, four against and zero abstention.
The mandatory ROTC was filed in the Lower House after President Duterte urged Congress to pass a law requiring senior high school students in private and public education institutions to undergo ROTC training.
‘Hotbed of abuse’
Contrary to Duterte’s belief that the ROTC will instill patriotism and love of country among the youth, Kabataan Party-list believes that the program is a hotbed of abuse and corruption.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said there are numerous cases of abuses, hazing, abuse of power, corruption, and even deaths of current and former cadets that continue to surface in the news and through reports received by their office and through social media and other channels.
Previously the group cited the case of two female cadets of Polytechnic University of the Philippines who complained of hazing committed by senior cadet officers in 2014; the videos that trended online showing ROTC officials severely hazing cadets at the University of Mindanao-Tagum City in 2016; the allegations of sexual abuse at the Benguet State University and complaints from the ROTC cadets in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Pasig.
Just recently on March 11, Elmer Decilao, an ROTC corps commander at Iloilo State College of Fisheries, allegedly killed ROTC cadet Willy Amihoy using a lead pipe.
ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio also said the institutionalization of mandatory ROTC will only be exposing youth to more harassment in their schools.
“Proponents of the bill insist that having mandatory ROTC will instill nationalism in the youth yet they swiftly removed subjects on Philippine history and Philippine literature in the curriculum. Mandatory ROTC will not teach the youth love of country, instead it would teach them how to be blind followers and discourage critical thinking,” Tinio said in a statement.
He added that Duterte should be reminded of the reason why the mandatory ROTC in college was removed. It was after the massive protests of students, teachers and parents against ROTC due to the killing of University of Santo Tomas student and ROTC cadet, Mark Welson Chua in 2001. In 2002, ROTC became optional under the National Service Training Program Act where students could opt to serve by providing literacy training, civic welfare or through the ROTC.