MANILA — The proposed reinstatement of the mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for Grades 11 and 12 students does not violate any international law, the spokesperson of the Department of National Defense (DND) said Friday.
“It is the DND’s position that those opposed to the proposed bill are using a myopic interpretation of the law, which misleads the public into forming false perceptions and ill-informed opinions. The proposed bill was vetted by the DOJ, DND, DepED, and DFA (departments of justice, national defense, education, and foreign affairs) to ensure that it does not contravene the Philippine constitution and international conventions,” Arsenio Andolong told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Andolong was reacting to claims made by some sectors that making ROTC mandatory for senior high students violates international law.
He was referring to House of Representatives Bill 8961, which seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) 7077 or the Citizen Armed Forces of the Philippines Reservist Act. The bill was passed by the House on third and final reading, with a vote of 167-4-0.
Andolong said that under the “Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict”, to which the Philippines is a signatory, the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is 18 years old.
He also pointed out that ROTC cadets are not conscripted into the military and expected to fight wars during their two-year training.
“While some cadets may opt to join the regular force after they finish their voluntary advanced ROTC in college, mandatory ROTC will not automatically make our Grades 11 and 12 students part of the AFP. Furthermore, critics of the bill also forget that (the) mobilization of reservists in times of war will require an Act of Congress,” Andolong explained.
He added that reinstating mandatory ROTC among Grades 11 and 12 students is logical as only a small percentage of high school students are able to attend college.
This will automatically exclude them from the program should mandatory ROTC be reinstated for college students only.
“As to the question of age, we must point out that mandatory ROTC in the past was part of the curriculum of first and second year college students, most of whom were 16 to 18 years old. Reinstating mandatory ROTC in Grades 11 and 12 would not be any different in terms of age because these students fall within the same age bracket of the first and second year college students of the old curriculum. This seems to be a fact that proponents of college-level ROTC conveniently forget when they cite age as a problem in the current proposal,” Andolong he said.
Under House Bill 8961, ROTC training would apply to “all students in Grades 11 and 12 in all senior high schools in public and private educational institutions” and shall be a requirement for graduation.
The following students may, however, be exempted: those who are physically or psychologically unfit; those who have undergone or are undergoing similar military training; those who are chosen by their school to serve as varsity players in sports competition; and those who may be exempted from training for valid reasons as approved by the DND, upon recommendation by an educational institution where the student is enrolled.
The proposed measure also strictly prohibits the use of ROTC training for “political” objective and for teaching and instilling a particular political ideology on students. House Bill 8961 also bans hazing and other forms of physical or mental abuse. (PNA)