Due to the very controversial death of Mark Chua, a student of University of Santo Tomas who died during the year 2001 after exposing the corruption in the ROTC unit of the said university, the country’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program was made voluntary. The student, along with his fellow cadet Romulo Yumul, disclosed the exploitation in the university’s ROTC program in “The Varsitarian’s February 21, 2001” issue. Found floating in the Pasig River, Chua’s body was wrapped in a carpet, hands tied, while his face was covered with masking tape.
This death has led to the passage of the National Service Training Program (NSTP) in 2001, which changed ROTC into a voluntary option. However, fast forward to the year 2019, the House of Representatives is aiming to pass House Bill (HB) 8961 (http://congress.gov.ph/legisdocs/first_17/CR01146.pdf), reviving the ROTC. The said house bill will possibly passed on May of this year.
In an opposition to this, the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK), a group not connected to the National Democratic movement, stated last Wednesday that “Patriotism does not necessarily equate to student cadets marching under the scorching heat of the sun every Sunday, wielding a rifle and mindlessly following shouted orders like training canines, minus the vulgar threats”. The group also added that these activities do “nothing to develop one’s talents, skills and character that can be deemed relevant in nation building.” It said the government can foster patriotism through programs that allow “the active participation of citizens in governance and nation building at all levels.”
Meanwhile, Akbayan Youth claimed that the ROTC program “will prevent senior high schools from being a safe space as it has proven to be a cyclical system of physical and psychological abuse, homophobia, and misogyny.” During January of this year, the group also said that the revival of mandatory ROTC is “a spit on the grave” of Chua. It added that “Congress should instead pass legislation that will enable senior high school students to be active citizens through community service education programs and courses.”
Furthermore, Rep. Sarah Elago of Kabataan party-list said on Wednesday that the bill was approved on second reading “without thorough study by the committee and no action was taken on cases of abuse and rights violations in the ROTC program.”
As of now, the Senate is still deliberating on its version of the measure at committee level. The said bill directly impinges on the youth’s interest, specifically to those who have yet to take Grades 11 and 12 or those aged 16 and 17. As of now, the bill needs only one more round of votes, which is the final one, before leaping the House.