Akbayan says proposal 'absurd, irrelevant' as pandemic rages
MANILA — While the defense department on Thursday supports Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio's proposal for mandatory military service for all Filipinos after turning 18 years old, it admitted there are "huge" challenges in making it a reality.
"There are huge hurdles in implementing this" even as "there are several advantages" in the proposal, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement.
He said that while it will provide a "steady" pool of reservists and the inculcation of patriotism among Filipinos, funding and resources could be difficult.
"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," Lorenzana said.
"Second, are the anticipated objections of those who are not inclined to serve in the military. Third, we are not on war footing and there will be little need of a general mobilization," he added.
The mandatory implementation of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) in private and public schools "is a better alternative," the defense chief said.
"This program, which targets the K11-K12 levels, will produce a huge number of youths who will form part of our reservists. We feel that the product of the ROTC program is more than sufficient to meet our requirements for warm bodies in case of conflict and in times of calamities and disasters," he said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for its part, described Duterte-Carpio's proposal as "attuned to the times."
"We welcome the proposal... while government is faced with adversities and challenges, aligned with our aspirations for the citizenry to contribute to nation building," said AFP Spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala
"Rendering mandatory military service will only help us to establish base for a strong armed forces, and therefore a strong nation," he added.
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 (UST) student.
Chua 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.
In a statement, Akbayan described the proposal as "absurd, unfair and irrelevant."
"Nasa gitna tayo ng pandemiya tapos ito plano ni Sara? The Duterte administration has done precious little to assert our sovereignty and territorial integrity in the West Philippine Sea," Akbayan’s First Nominee Perci Cendaña said.
(We are in the middle of the pandemic and this is Sara's plan?)
Cendaña, a former commissioner at the National Youth Commission, emphasized that the mandatory military service is not the only option to show a Filipino's patriotism.
He also pointed out that the country is not at war.
"While we recognize the right of every citizen to enroll in military service, this should be kept voluntary. There are so many other ways to defend our territory and sovereignty: assert our Nation's victory in the Hague. Modernize the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard to create credible deterrents," he said.
Duterte-Carpio is running for vice president in this year's elections.
— with a report from Mico Abarro, ABS-CBN News