The head of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines has expressed support for proposals to require Filipino citizens to render military service once they turn 18 years of age.
“I think we need that to instill more discipline to our young people, and besides, it’s a good thing also to bring about while they are young,” said Bishop Oscar Jaime Florencio in an interview over Radio Veritas 846.
Human rights and youth groups have opposed the proposal, which was raised by presidential daughter Sara Duterte, calling it a violation of “basic civil and political rights.”
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said mandatory military service violates the right to freedom of thought, beliefs, and conscience, “especially if you are forced to provide service or fight in unjust wars or repressive endeavors of the State.”
Calls to abolish mandatory military training were fueled by the killing of a university student in 2001 after he exposed corruption in his school’s military training program.
Bishop Florencio, however, said the state should ensure that the rights of those who would undergo military service, if ever it is implemented, should be respected and their safety ensured.
He said it should not only be an academic requirement “but a necessity for a strong and solid good character.”
Earlier, the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines warned against the proposal.
“We cannot bear our youth to serve in mandatory enlistment to become fodders of a fascist institution that normalizes abuses by authorities,” read the group’s statement.
A group of educators in the University of the Philippines also denounced “in the strongest terms” the proposal.
“It would be nightmarish to force all Filipinos, especially the youth, to participate in a flawed military organization that has blind obedience and human rights violations as its hallmark,” said Lakan Umali, the group’s spokesperson.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said that while he welcomed the idea, the proposal faces “huge hurdles.”
“First are the funds and resources,” he said, adding that “training camps would need to be established all over the land, and manpower and funds must be allocated to accommodate the millions who will reach the age of 18 every year.”