MANILA, 9Feb2017 — KABATAAN Party-list condemns the recent signing of the revived mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program for senior high school students (Grades 11 and 12).
According to Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, it is another step in the Duterte administration’s setup for rising fascism in the country.
“We reiterate our firm opposition to the mandatory ROTC and call for its abolition. It has earned a reputation for teaching a false sense of nationalism in the youth,” Elago said.
“Instead of fostering discipline, it has ushered in a culture of blind obedience and abuse of power, resulting in a history of abuses, corruption, hazing and violence,” Elago said.
Culture of violence
The call to abolish ROTC first made noise in 2001 when the brutal murder of UST student Mark Welson Chua, linked to his exposition of corruption in the UST Corps, sparked a broad movement that pushed the abolition of ROTC program in schools, resulting in the creation of the National Service Training program (NSTP) through Republic Act 9163 and the demotion of ROTC as one of its components.
“But even after, the culture of violence remains,” Elago remarked.
The lawmaker recounts various ROTC-related incidents that occurred last year, including one at Benguet State University (BSU) where cadets were reportedly physically abused and forced to masturbate in front of the ROTC officers. Some female cadets, on the other hand, were forced to sleep in the quarters of their male officers.
ROTC cadets in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Pasig (PLP) reportedly experienced the same form of physical and sexual abuse, but there are also reports of attempted rape of female cadets.
Earlier last year, a video, showing cadets of the University of Mindanao-Tagum being repeatedly hit in the stomach, made its rounds in the news and social media.
“There are too many of them to be isolated cases. These are manifestations of a rotting culture bred inside the program.
“If the culture of violence and is rampant in tertiary schools, what more of our relatively young children in senior high school students, who at their age are more prone to abuses like this?” Elago remarked.
Added militarization in schools
In addition, the lawmaker decries that the revival of mandatory ROTC will also revive militarization in schools.
“This gives a free pass for heightened military operations in schools and universities,” Elago said.
“Cadets and other students are recruited to Student Intelligence Networks (SIN), training them to spy on fellow students and organizations they deem hostile. This clearly translates to an attack on our youth and the people, and a violation of their rights,” Elago said.
“Student intelligence transforms into surveillance in the cities where urban activists are hunted and spied on. Meanwhile, the culture of violence among cadets only contributes to the culture of harassment and militarization in the countryside where schools, such as the community school ALCADEV, are militarized and activists and leaders harassed, illegally detained or killed,” Elago said.
Kabataan Partylist last year filed HB 2399, or the “ROTC Abolition Act of 2016,” seeking to abolish the ROTC program and add more socio-civic components, such as comprehensive community service, community-based health and nutrition program, community immersion, disaster preparedness, ecological services, and human rights education.
“This recent act is sure to face opposition from youth, students, faculty and parents who are for the abolition of ROTC,” Elago added.
“We believe that discipline and nationalism can be instilled in linking with the people and not through pushups, merits and demerits. What we need as a nation, now more than ever, is not an army of young men and women trained in the ways of the military but an army of volunteers and advocates ready to serve and uphold the needs of their communities and the nation as a whole. What we need is a youth fueled not with fascist, sadomasochist ideals, but with national democratic ideals advocating for the youth’s right to education, for a just and humane society, and for genuine social transformation. We must harness the positive characteristics of the youth and pave the way for national liberation and democracy,” Elago ended.