MANILA (UPDATE) - Davao City Mayor and vice-presidential aspirant Sara Duterte-Carpio said on Wednesday that she would push for mandatory military service for all Filipinos after they turn 18 years old, if she wins the country's second-highest office in the May 9 polls.
Duterte-Carpio made the pledge during her UniTeam's Metro Manila Virtual Caravan with running mate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. She said that she would approach both the House of Representatives and the Senate to make this possible.
"Nakikita po natin ito sa ibang bansa, sa South Korea, sa Israel nakikita po natin 'yan doon sa kanila. Hindi po ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corps] lang na isang subject, o isang weekend o isang buwan sa isang taon," Duterte-Carpio said.
(We see this being done in other countries like South Korea and Israel. It won't be like the ROTC that's just one subject, or just one weekend, or just one month in one year.)
According to Duterte-Carpio, both males and females will be asked to serve in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They would also be given what she called a "subsidy".
The ROTC or the previously mandatory military training in college was made optional in 2002 following the controversy that resulted in the death of Mark Chua, a University of Sto. Tomas student. He was allegedly slain by course officers after exposing ROTC fund mismanagement.
ROTC is now one of the three components of the National Service Training Program, along with Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) and Literacy Training Service (LTS).
Currently, military service in the Philippines is voluntary. However, Article 2, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution provides for the possibility of conscription.
"The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfilment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal military or civil service," it says.
President Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa are among government officials pushing for mandatory military service.
Fellow vice presidential aspirant Walden Bello slammed Duterte-Carpio for pushing for mandatory military service, calling it a "mask off" moment for what he called a "dictator-in-waiting."
"Yet the idea that a Duterte cares about the ability of the Philippines to protect itself from external threat is laughable given PRRD’s record of kowtowing to both the Chinese and American imperial powers," Bello said.
"A Vice Presidential candidate who wasn't so stuck in a militaristic mindset would know that the biggest problem with the Armed Forces is not its lack of capability, but its corruption-cum-internal repression."
In response to Bello's statement, Duterte-Carpio called him an "ungrateful citizen" who cannot see the value of those who risk their lives to protect the country.
"If only Mr Bello did not stop at what he has been so stuck in over the past many years — dictatorship in the Philippines, something that we know is a lie in the present time — he would have a better understanding of what I truly stand for," she said in a statement.
"The obsession over dictatorship in this country is as ancient as the belief that the youth have no actual important role in building a nation that is progressive and peaceful," Duterte-Carpio added.
She also expressed her hope that the youth won't end up like Bello.
"I truly hope that our youth do not grow up to be a Walden Bello — an ungrateful citizen who sleeps peacefully at the comfort of their homes, unable to say prayer or a silent ‘thank you’ to the men and women who became martyrs while countering violent extremism, insurgency, and terrorism," Duterte-Carpio said.