MANILA — The Department of Education supports President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s plans to require senior high school students to undergo military training, its spokesperson said Wednesday.
"The Department of Education is in support of such measure to make ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) mandatory, basically because it adheres to one of our core values of being makabansa (nationalistic)," DepEd Spokesperson Michael Poa said in a press conference.
Despite the support, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte "feels that we will need to sit down first" with Congress and the Commission on Higher Education to discuss the details of the proposal, Poa said.
While President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is prioritizing the push for mandatory ROTC, the DepEd is still more focused on preparing for the resumption of in-person classes at full capacity, Poa added.
Also on Wednesday, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian released results of a recently commissioned Pulse Asia survey, which showed that 69 percent of 1,200 respondents are in favor of implementing mandatory ROTC in senior high school.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education committee, said he has filed a bill that "seeks the institutionalization and administration of the basic ROTC program for students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12."
The program includes "basic military training to motivate, train, organize and utilize students for national defense preparedness or civil-military operations."
Gatchalian said his bill also mandates that "no student below the age of 18 shall take direct part in hostilities," in accordance with international law on children's rights, and assures safeguards.
During his first State of the Nation Address last Monday, President Marcos said he wanted to make ROTC mandatory in Grades 11 and 12.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros opposed the plan, saying there are other ways for the Filipino youth to serve and express their love for the country.
A security analyst earlier warned that requiring students aged below 18 to undergo military training violates international law.
The proposal has received support from the Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The ROTC was made optional in 2002 following the controversial death of Mark Chua, a University of Santo Tomas student who was allegedly killed by fellow cadet officers for exposing corruption in the program.
It is now 1 of 3 components of the National Service Training Program that college students can choose from, along with the Civic Welfare Training Service and Literacy Training Service.