May 21, 2019

This just in: On May 20, the House of Representatives approved House Bill No. 8961, a bill backed by President Duterte that will bring back the mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for all students in grades 11 and 12, whether they be from public or private schools. The training will serve as a prerequisite for graduation.

According to, the only students who can seek exemption from training are: those deemed physically or psychologically “unfit” (whatever that means); those who have gone through or are currently going through similar military training (which is a bit chilling when you think about it); and varsity players (ditto, but in a different way). The Department of National Defense may also approve other reasons for exemption, but that doesn’t exactly instill us with confidence.

The president offered his support for the bill last November by exclaiming that the bill will “instill patriotism and love of country among our youth.” Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago countered this assertion by pointing out that this military training could instead bring about “a false sense of nationalism and patriotism,” adding, “What we need is an army of youth conscious of their historic role as the hope of our land, not forcibly trained in the mercenary tradition of blind obedience to authority and only to be used as pawns in silencing the people.”

Possibly a more insidious reason why the mandatory training is being put into place is to prevent students from being recruited by the CPP-NPA, which the AFP outright stated. This brings back all the unwarranted red-tagging of universities that have been happening within the past year.

In the midst of all this, let’s not forget the reason why ROTC stopped being mandatory in the first place.

In 2001, an ROTC cadet from UST named Mark Chua, along with co-cadet Romulo Yumul submitted a complaint to the Department of National Defense alleging corruption within the school’s ROTC unit. They then disclosed their complaint and their findings with the university newspaper, The Varsitarian, which then published an exposé on the shady goings-on behind the scenes within the ROTC in January that year. This led to many ROTC officers being relieved of their positions.

Almost immediately after, Chua began receiving multiple death threats over his whistle blowing. Then, on March 18, three months after the exposé was first published, his body was found floating in a river. He was wrapped with a carpet, his legs bound with shoestring and his head encased in packaging tape. (The Varsitarian released a grim timeline of this here.)

Because of Chua’s murder and of accumulated incidents of corruption over the years, the military training program became optional in 2002.

However, even until now, the practice is still rife with issues concerning corruption, power tripping, hazing, and harassment. Back in 2017, then-National Union of Students of the Philippines spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim argued that the practice had “continuously violated the democratic and academic rights of Filipino students.” As examples of this, he offered the reports of hazing from Polytechnic University of the Philippines in 2014 and at the University of Mindanao in 2016, as well as allegations of sexual abuse at Benguet State University’s ROTC program.

While there have been mentions of putting into place guidelines to quell corruption in the ROTC to go along with the bill, without anything concrete, it’ll be just that. Mere mentions, a hope that things will go well.

All in all, this resolution isn’t exactly giving us a bright hope for the wellbeing of the future generation.


Featured photo courtesy of Gabriel Pabico Lalu from

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TAGS: house of represen mandatory rotc mark chua President Rodrigo Duterte