NEWS | CHED proposes ROTC program amendments, still lacks comprehensive plans for F2F classes
By John Florentino Perez and John Paul Cristobal
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) stated its willingness to implement an optional advanced Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) to universities and colleges, if the program would be implemented in Senior High School (SHS). While the ROTC pronouncement is under work for implementation, student organizations and human rights groups continue to express their denouncement over the mandatory ROTC program.
100% commitment on ROTC implementation
The tertiary education governing body expressed its “100%” commitment to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. ‘s pronouncement of the ROTC implementation to Grades 11 and 12, said CHED’s chairperson Prospero de Vera III at a press briefing.
“Kapag nagkaroon ng senior high na ROTC, ma-amyendahan yung National Service Training Program (NSTP) law dahil yung laman nung optional na two years ROTC sa university level ay mako-convert into advanced ROTC program,” de Vera said.
De Vera said that the implementation of ROTC in SHS prepares the youth for advanced ROTC at the collegiate level. He further asserted that CHED is currently working on NSTP revisions in order to submit to lawmakers once ROTC is implemented in SHS. He added that advanced ROTC graduates may be able to get a diploma for finishing the program, and that they may enter the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as Officers.
After an infamous killing of a cadet back in 2001 at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), the government then promulgated the Republic Act 9163 or the NSTP Act where there were other NSTP courses to choose from other than ROTC.
The implementation of ROTC resurfaced after its pronouncement in the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Marcos Jr., supporting his Vice President’s Sara Duterte’s ROTC insertion in SHS.
“The aim is to motivate, train, organize, and mobilize the students for national defense preparedness, including disaster preparedness and capacity building for risk-related situations,” Marcos said in his SONA.
Proposed changes on ROTC
De Vera reiterated that the proposed ROTC is optional under the NSTP program on the college level. The mandatory ROTC for SHS will become the ‘basic ROTC’ for the two-year optional advanced ROTC in college.
“The ROTC option in the NSTP will have to change…The objective will now be to build upon what the students learned in senior high and put skills that will be an add-on to what they got in senior high,” he said.
However, part of the proposal is that it will be more heavily skills-based. Four years ago, CHED developed a new curriculum for the two-year ROTC program at the university level to embed disaster management and military science competencies.
In this case, the universities must link with local government units (LGUs). De Vera also said that they made an agreement with the Philippine Red Cross concerning life-saving techniques. After finishing the advanced ROTC, students are expected to be at the forefront when disasters and unforeseen circumstances arise.
“Hindi na pwede yung pamartsa-martsa at yung nakababad sa araw. Hindi na yan pwede sa university level,” he added.
However, students suggest that instead of pushing for mandatory ROTC in SHS, they could realign SHS subjects for disaster preparedness.
“There’s already Disaster Readiness and Risk Reduction in SHS, a core subject. There’s also Science, Technology, and Society in college, a 3-unit course. They could realign the curriculum to focus on health and disaster response, instead of pushing for the mandatory ROTC,” Jelo Mantaring, a journalism graduate of UST, said on a Twitter post.
In a tweet, Kabataan Partylist Representative Raoul Manuel asserted that the CHED failed to do its job.
“By supporting the revival of mandatory ROTC, CHED is admitting that it failed to do its job as per NSTP Law of 2001 to be one of the agencies tasked to lead the mobilization of non-ROTC finishers for civic service activities,” Manuel said.
Moreover, in a joint statement, Akbayan Youth, the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, and the Bukluran ng mga Progresibong Iskolar, said that the mandatory ROTC is just a burden to students.
The youth groups added that Marcos’ focus on mandatory ROTC shows that he is out of touch with the needs of the youth and students.
“During the height of the pandemic, more than four million students dropped out of their schools. More than half of students reported that online classes have affected their mental health,” they said.
Students and progressive groups asserted that the Marcos administration should lay out comprehensive plans for the safe resumption of classes and increase funding for the education sector to tackle the ongoing educational crisis.