ROTC bill pushed for K-12 program

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Department of National Defense (DND) said Friday that it has started the ball rolling to bring back a mandatory, college-based, military training program.

The DND revealed in a Friday symposium that it has drafted a bill implementing major changes to the original composition of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), which it expects to file in Congress in February 2017.

The biggest change for the proposed program is that it will require all Grades 11 and 12 students under the K-to-12 program to join the ROTC. It will still have the usual field military training drills, but with new modules.

"Dadagdagan natin ng disaster management ang training" [We will add disaster management to the training], said DND Undersecretary Ed Del Rosario.

The bill comes more than three months since President Rodrigo Duterte first called for the return of ROTC.

The Commission on Higher Education is also studying proposals to revive the program.

The ROTC program began in 1912 and had been required for college students until 2002 after some cadets died from hazing. One high-profile case was the death of University of Santo Tomas student Mark Welson Chua, who was killed by fellow ROTC members after he exposed corruption in the organization.

Good for federalism

Aside from instilling nationalism and discipline among the youth, proponents said the bill also supports the President's bid to shift to the federal form of government.

Those who will complete the ROTC training, as well as military reservists, will automatically be state national guards during national emergencies.

"We have a 100 million population," said Duterte Youth member Ronald Cardema. "Our biggest resource is human resource, so we need to train everybody in preparation for calamities, earthquake, supertyphoons na lagi naman nangyayari [that frequently occur]."

Subject of debate

However, the revival of the mandatory military training for college students is drawing mixed reactions.

Some students said it robs them of their right to choose, while others said making it mandatory would be bad for the youth.

"We do not subscribe to the notion that ROTC could instill discipline and love of country, given its violent and mired history... ROTC should not be made mandatory. In fact, the program should be abolished," Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said in a prior interview.

Elago filed in August House Bill 2399 or the ROTC Abolition Act of 2016, which proposes programs like "comprehensive community service, community-based health and nutrition program, community immersion, disaster preparedness, ecological services, and human rights education."

CNN Philippines Correspondent Pia Bonalos and Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.