Mandatory ROTC will address country's reservists gap — Defense Spokesman

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program will address the country's need for more reserve forces, said Department of National Defense (DND) Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved Tuesday the mandatory ROTC for students in Grades 11 and 12 nationwide.

Read: Duterte approves mandatory ROTC for Senior High students

The proposed measure will then be forwarded to Congress and be certified as urgent.

Andolong said the proposal is in response to Duterte's State of the Nation Address last year, which highlighted the need to instill "discipline in the youth, as well as patriotism, love of country, moral and spiritual values, and respect for human rights."

Read: In his own words: President Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address

The ROTC cadets and graduates primarily make up the country's reservists, who are considered civilians with basic military training that may be called on for additional manpower when necessary.

Andolong emphasized the important role of reservists in the country, especially in times of calamities.

"The armed forces is basically composed of 20 percent regular personnel and 80 percent reservists, who are primarily used during calamities and disasters," Andolong said.

However, he said the number of reservists has been declining, which is the direct result of the decrease in ROTC enrollees.

"We are also in the middle of a crisis of sorts, because our reserved force has been dwindling over the years," Andolong said, "Because not very many have been [taking up ROTC], we now have a large gap between what we need and what we have."

Without giving exact figures, Andolong said there are about 75,000 ROTC personnel nationwide, but the country is "supposed to have a strong force of about 168,000."

He also said that in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is the only country "that doesn't have a reserve force that we can really call on."

New curriculum-based approach

In 2001, the mandatory ROTC was terminated when University of Santo Tomas student and ROTC member Mark Welson Chua was found dead after exposing an alleged corruption in his unit.

The ROTC has since been offered as an optional program under the National Service Training Program (NSTP) through Republic Act 9163.

With this, Andolong said they are well aware of the resistance and apprehension of parents and students alike, so different safeguards are in place to address the issue.

He said the program of instruction (POI) will be designed by three agencies: the DND, the Department of Education (DepEd), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will create a group to monitor the implementation, making sure that the POI is being followed to the letter.

Andolong also cited the anti-hazing and anti-corruption laws as legal basis against those who will commit abuses.

"These people, the tactical officers and commandants, will be made answerable to the DND, the DepEd and TESDA, if these are not followed," he said.

Andolong added implementing the mandatory ROTC for senior high school students would allow those unable to go to college to still be part of the program.

He added the ROTC curriculum will capitalize on the respect for human rights and the essence of leadership, among others.

"This time, leadership and the way you handle people would be very much a part of the new curriculum, hindi na lang basta puro martsa at saka bilad sa araw (they will not just march and stay under the sun)," Andolong said.