Amid concerns about the possible revival of the mandatory Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in the country, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) assured that it will be “different” this time around.
CHED Chairman Popoy De Vera, in a radio interview on Monday, Jan. 30, noted that there while there are still several concerns and issues that need to be addressed as the government pushes for the revival of the ROTC, the implementation of the program will be much different compared to the previous one.
“ROTC has been optional for almost 20 years now so we have the benefit of knowing what mistakes should not happen again and what should be reformed,” De Vera said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“That is the advantage now, we could not see this in the ROTC before because what our focus was the implementation of ROTC,” he added.
The concept of ROTC, De Vera said, has been “expanded” in the proposed Citizen Service Program (CSP). Based on recent discussions with lawmakers, he noted that all college students will have to undergo CSP for two years.
Those who have completed the mandatory two-year CSP, he explained, may wish to proceed to the Advanced ROTC which will take another two years.
“Once you have completed this, you can proceed further — to be recruited by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for instance,” he added.
Unlike in the previous implementation, De Vera assured that the revived ROTC will be more than marching under the sun and doing formation.
“Hindi ito yung pa-martsa-martsa lang sa araw or pa-formation, yung konsepto dun sa House version ay magbuo ng isang kabataang Pilipino na matuto sa kanyang (This will include not just marching under the sun or doing formation, the concept in the House version is to produce Filipino youth who knows) civic duty, individual safety and community safety, disaster preparedness and management, and citizen soldier training,” De Vera said.
“Ang konsepto ay makabuo ng isang Pilipino na handang magsilbi sa bayan (The concept is to produce Filipino youth that are ready to serve the country — both in times of peace and in times of war ,” he added.
“Hindi ito na ibabalik lang yung ROTC na katulad ng ginagawa natin noon — malawak yung ihuhubog sa bawat kabataang Pilipino (We will not bring back the old ROTC from before — it will be expanded to train every Filipino youth),” he added.
The proposed revival of the ROTC has been getting mixed reactions from education stakeholders including parents and students — among others.
Among the concerns and issues being raised include the additional cost on the part of the students and the possibility of corrupt practices — among others — in the implementation of the revived ROTC.
De Vera, on his part, recognized that several issues need to be addressed as the country gears up for the revival of the mandatory ROTC in the higher education system. However, he noted that such issues and concerns will be addressed once the proposed measure is passed into the law and during the crafting of its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).
“Yan ay kailangan higpitan natin doon sa pagsulat ng (We need to tighten this when we write the) IRR,” De Vera said when asked to respond on the possibility of corrupt practices once the ROTC has been revived.
The concerns of parents and students and other concerned sectors, he explained, will be heard during the public hearings.
Despite opposition to the revival of the mandatory ROTC, De Vera noted that the majority of Filipinos are in favor of the move based on the survey conducted by OCTA Research.
De Vera said that “64 percent of Filipinos want the revival of ROTC” based on the survey conducted among the 18 to 24 age group.
The revival of ROTC, he explained, will also not “start from scratch” as it is among the options in the existing National Service Training Program (NSTP) in universities and colleges.
In many higher education institutions (HEIs), De Vera pointed out that there as systems in place for the implementation of ROTC. The challenge in the IRR, he said, is how will this be expanded in the existing system for those that have an ROTC program.
Another challenge, he added, is the need for a new curriculum that would ensure the inclusion of skills and competencies of the students.
Since different agencies need to work on the curriculum, De Vera said that the implementation of the revived ROTC “will also take time.”
When it comes to other issues such as the additional cost for students, De Vera said that there are various proposals to address this.
“The cost issue that needs to be discussed in the public hearing,” De Vera said.
Currently, he noted that this cannot be considered an “immediate cost” since students enrolled n HEIs pay a certain fee for the NSTP.
In public universities, he pointed out that the miscellaneous fees are covered by the Free Higher Education law which is part of what is being reimbursed by the government.
While there are still details that need to be ironed out, De Vera stressed that the focus should be more on the objective of reviving the mandatory ROTC which is to equip the Filipino youth with “basic skills” like responding to accidents, disasters, evacuation, and others.
“Dapat na i-commit natin ay matuto tayo kung ano man yung pagkukulang nung nakaraan at tingnan natin kung ano yung mga magagandang pagbabago na talagang maghubog tayo ng bagong kabataang Pilipino - ito yung tinatawag na citizen soldier, (What we should commit on is learning what were the shortcomings of the past and look what will be the good changes that would mold the Filipino youth — this is what we call the citizen soldier),” he added.