(SPOT.ph) Talks of reviving the mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps for senior high school kids are back on the front page following a heated Senate hearing on January 25 in which members of the Department of National Defense pointed to possible challenges to the program's implementation due to a lack of manpower and resources. They were met with outbursts from Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, a proponent of the measure to reinstate the training.
Lack of manpower and resources
The Department of National Defense (DND) said there might not be enough military personnel to run the ROTC program, which requires 9,000 to 10,000 people be deployed to around 2,400 higher educational institutions. Those numbers haven’t even yet taken into consideration the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and out-of-school youth, noted Defense Undersecretary Franco Nemesio Gacal.
On top of the lack of manpower, there are also financial resources and logistical facilities to consider. In November 2022, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) estimated a hefty P9.2 billion cost to implement the ROTC program.
Gacal's comments irked Dela Rosa, who called out the DND’s pessimism towards the ROTC’s implementation. "You want to give the job to the [Commission on Higher Education,] to the TESDA, then let’s drop this!" he said.
Still in the same hearing, executive officer of the military’s reservist and retiree affairs Colonel Ronald Jess Alcudia told Dela Rosa that the military will be able to run the program so long as they are given "the proper support and logistics."
"We will support you. Here in the Senate, us proponents, we are authors of this bill, we will not leave you alone to implement this without a budget to support you," Dela Rosa noted.
"Tuloy," the senator confirmed to members of the press after the hearing, explaining that there was simply a "miscommunication" over the situation presented by Undersecretary Gacal. "Mayroon naman tayong mata-tap na magagaling na mga standby reservists," said Dela Rosa when asked how they plan to answer the lack of manpower and resources. He pointed as well to the possibility of additional recruitment.
A president's push
During his term, former President Rodrigo Duterte also urged Congress to revive the ROTC, which resulted in some 20 proposed measures that never came to fruition.
Now, the legislative body is back to expediting this same presidential call for a mandatory ROTC program at President BongBong Marcos' directive. The Senate committees have since formed a Technical Working Group to craft the measure, which Dela Rosa expects to be completed by the first quarter of 2023.
If passed into law, the ROTC program will be a requirement for Grade 11 and 12 students in all public and private schools, with particular focus on civic duty and disaster management. At present, students have the option to choose between civic welfare training, literacy training service, and ROTC under the required National Service Training Program (NSTP).
In 2001, ROTC was made optional under the NSTP following a series of brutal hazing activities that culminated in a college student's death.