MANILA—As the debate whether the government should make the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program mandatory for senior high school students rages on, an educator on Thursday reminded Filipinos that love of country should be first taught at home and not in school.
Arnulfo Empleo, youth formation division head of the education department, said a focus-group discussion revealed that love of family was the value most cherished by Filipinos, while love of country only ranked 19th on the list.
While Empleo agrees that requiring ROTC for senior high school students would make them more patriotic, nothing beats instilling this value while they are still young, he said.
“Bilang isang guro, naniniwala ako na ito ay dapat magsimula sa tahanan. Kami sa paaralan sumusuporta para ipagpatuloy ang pagsasanay ng mga kabataan para mahubog sila sa mabuting pag-uugali,” Empleo said in a Senate hearing.
(As an educator, I believe love for country should begin at home. We at school help in the children’s values formation.)
The Senate and House of Representatives are tackling proposed measures seeking to make the ROTC program mandatory among Grade 11 and 12 students. Some lawmakers are proposing alternative bills that aim to instill the core values of nationalism and patriotism during a child’s formative years.
Senators Pia Cayetano and Imee Marcos are opposed to making the ROTC program mandatory among senior high school students.
Cayetano filed a bill that seeks to introduce in the curriculum physical fitness, arts, cultural heritage, community outreach, basic disaster risk reduction and management, and basic security. She believes these components would help develop nationalism among students.
She said training on security, survival, and public service would only be introduced among senior high school students under her bill.
Marcos, meanwhile, is proposing a “Citizen Service Program” for grade school to college students.
She said her program still accommodates President Rodrigo Duterte's call for military training for the youth but allows college students the choice of training in community service, disaster preparedness, and environmental protection.
“I am against mandatory ROTC because it is overtly military,” Marcos said during the hearing.
“If we make ROTC mandatory, we will only be forcing students to become soldiers. A soldier forced to become one would be incompetent.”
But Commodore Ramil Roberto Enriquez of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the country needs “prepared men and individuals” to defend it.
Duterte has asked Congress to pass a law making the ROTC program mandatory, but the proposed measure is expected to receive fierce opposition from groups that say this might cultivate a culture of abuse among students.
Lawyer Norman Daanoy, legal affairs chief of the defense department, said making students undergo ROTC training would make them less vulnerable to recruitment by leftist groups.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate education committee, said the government would need to shell out P38 billion to fund the ROTC program in 11,817 senior high schools in the country. This amount is close to the P40 billion funding for free tuition law allotted in 2018.
“If we cannot guarantee this P38 billion, and we will implement this haphazardly, then we will not see a new and improved ROTC,” Gatchalian said.
“We need a huge fund and we don’t want a scenario where we will scrimp on money and get unqualified trainers, and then we will have a problem with the implementation.”
Sen. Richard Gordon, who filed a bill seeking the creation of a “Citizen Service Corps,” said training young Filipinos to become ready to assist the government during wartime is a worthy investment.
“I’m willing to support that, in the same way I support a strong military, we need the best people to train the young ones,” Gordon said.
Under Gordon’s bill, Filipino citizens 18 years and above shall become a member of the corps, which may be “called upon and mobilized to assist in matters of external and territorial defense, internal security and peace and order, and disaster risk reduction and management.”