MANILA -- Sen. Pia Cayetano on Wednesday expressed her "strong reservations" on the proposed mandatory ROTC bill and called out the lack of women and youth voices in the discussion helmed by Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa.
During the hearing of the Subcommittee on the "Revitalized Reserve Officers Training Corps Act" of the Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education, Cayetano first noticed that most of the invited resource persons were men.
"I am happy to give a very short intervention for the consideration of our esteemed resource persons, many of whom I know are learned men, most are men yata... Sana magdala din kayo ng babaeng spokesperson para may gender voice din tayo," Cayetano noted.
The senator likewise pointed out the lack of youth voices in the hearing, aside from the National Youth Commission.
"I believe that there are other youth groups who would like to speak also. And sa akin lang naman po, having been a senator for... 13 years, the Senate has always to my mind been the best venue for the healthy exchange of ideas... I know it’s the prerogative of the Committee Chair kung sino magsasalita. Pero [for this bill] changing the 4 or 2 years that students are going to be in school, I think it’s very important that we listen to them," Cayetano said.
In her manifestation, Cayetano detailed how the current ROTC bills fail address many other forms of existential threats.
"I’d like you to educate me and tell me how these existential threats... will be addressed in that way? Because I would prefer, and this is a personal preference, with all due humility, that we continue to invest in the education of our youth... We will be taking away valuable hours that should be used, whether it’s in the classrooms or on the field, developing these skills that our youth, either already have or can be further honed, but not by way of military training per se," Cayetano lamented.
The senator also found problematic the "mandatory" aspect of the proposed law.
"Now on the issue of compulsory, narinig ko some of the comments of our dear colleagues, you want a professional group, you want them to be dedicated. Pero the most professional and dedicated are those who choose it for themselves. Hindi yung mandatory na wala ka naman choice and you are forced to do something. Medyo mahirap to get dedication out of that," she said.
YOUTH GROUPS CONDEMN BATO
Aside from Cayetano, other youth groups also questioned Dela Rosa's "exclusion" of other youth or student representatives in the hearing.
"Shouldn't Filipino students, as the ones in the line of fire, also be the first in line to be consulted about this? Is Sen. Bato afraid to clash once again with critical student leaders? We deserve to be heard sincerely," said Kabataan Partylist Executive Vice President Renee Louise Co.
Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK), an activist youth organization, also slammed the Senate subcommittee.
“This week’s hearings are going to be small-group discussions of dozens of out-of-touch boomer senators making decisions about the lives and safety of millions of Filipino students. No amount of circumvention of procedures will make this bill more agreeable,” John Lazaro, SPARK National Coordinator, stressed.
Meanwhile, ecumenical youth group Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) condemned Dela Rosa for the exclusion of youth voices for the hearing.
"Sen. Bato is afraid that he will be exposed again as anti-youth. The former PNP chief, who, under his watch, had children and youth killed, really only bends over backwards to listen to Marcos, Jr. and Duterte and not to the Filipino youth who are directly affected by this violent and cruel policy,” said Kej Andres, SCMP National Spokesperson.
Dela Rosa is eyeing to sponsor the mandatory ROTC bills to the Senate plenary before Congress goes on break in March.