The ecumenical Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) announced that it will join hundreds of students in a “unity walk” on November 17 in Manila against the proposed reinstatement of the Mandatory Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (MROTC).
“It is tragic that, after almost two decades, we have forgotten what the ROTC program did to the likes of Mark Welson Chua,” said Kej Andres, SCMP’s national spokesperson.
Chua was a student of the University of Santo Tomas whose death was widely believed to be linked to his exposé of alleged irregularities in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit of the university.
His death became the catalyst for the passage of Republic Act 9163 or the “National Service Training Program Law,” which removed completion of mandatory ROTC as a precondition for graduation for male college students in the Philippines.
“It is a tragedy that we have to remind our lawmakers that the program’s lifting as a mandatory subject was a result of state-recognized murder,” he added.
“There is even a state mechanism in place today that will encourage crimes under the ROTC program,” said Andres, referring to the country’s anti-terrorism law.
“Do our lawmakers need another Mark Chua? Do our lawmakers need a sacrificial lamb to realize the evil that will be set into motion by mandating the ROTC program?” Andres added.
He said the reimposition of mandatory ROTC will only give the Department of National Defense a platform “to perpetuate a culture of impunity against the Filipino youth.”
“The Christian youth will continue to walk the streets and join the studentry and the whole Filipino youth in carrying the cross against this bill,” said Andres.
In his first State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. included the ROTC Program in his 19-point priority agenda.
In the Senate, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 387 seeking the institutionalization and administration of the Basic ROTC Program for students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12.
The Basic ROTC Program will include basic military training that aims to motivate, train, organize and utilize students for national defense preparedness or civil-military operations.
The bill provides, however, that no student below the age of 18 shall take direct part in hostilities. He filed a similar bill in the 18th Congress.