Amid concerns and criticisms of the Marcos administration’s proposal to make the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program mandatory in Grades 11 and 12, the Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday, July 27, said that a law needs to be passed first before such a proposal could be implemented.
DepEd spokesman Michael Poa said, during a joint press conference held at the DepEd Central Office in Pasig City, that the agency will be open to any opinion from progressive groups like Akbayan Youth, which earlier criticized the program for being an additional burden to parents.
He added that it was still premature to entertain any argument about the program’s implementation because Congress has yet to pass a bill for its implementation.
“We really have to wait for the enactment of the law to make it mandatory but we will definitely take that into consideration especially when we sit down with Congress, CHED (Commission on Higher Education), in the drafting of the details and the provisions of the law,” he said.
Mandatory ROTC and national training program was one of the 19 priority legislations enumerated by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.
READ: Mandatory ROTC, bureaucracy rightsizing, e-government, and 16 other priority Marcos bills listed
While Poa said the DepEd supports the proposal to make ROTC mandatory because of its core value of nationalism, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte would still have to sit down with members of Congress and CHED officials to discuss how this will be implemented.
Duterte’s spokesman Reynold Munsayac said that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) will be tasked to determine the legality and constitutionality of the program after concerns were raised that it will violate the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a protocol to which the Philippines is a party.
The protocol mandates that those under 18 years old should not be “compulsorily recruited into the armed forces.”
“Kasi hindi lang naman sa Pilipinas, kahit sa iba (Because it’s not only in the Philippines, even in other) jurisdictions nagkakaroon ng (there are) issue, ‘yun (the) conflict between freedom of religion, right ng (of the) state na i-defend iyong sarili niya sa pagrerequire ng (to defend itself by requiring) military service,” Munsayac explained.
“So yung (the) OSG in case mangyari ‘yan sila na ‘yung magsusulong ng mga (that happens, they will push for the) legality, constitutionality issue,” he added.