YOUTH group Anakbayan Cordillera condemns the possible introduction of mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC) program in all public and private senior high schools (SHS) across the country despite its abusive, violent, and impunity-ridden history.

In a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly approved the proposal of the Department of National Defense (DND) to make ROTC compulsory for all grade 11 and grade 12 students, declaring the move “urgent”.

Luke Bagangan, secretary-general of Anakbayan Cordillera, deemed the executive move as absurd and anti-peace given the fascist culture propagated by DND and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Whether in the Citizenship Advancement Training (CAT) or ROTC, the State has largely turned a blind eye on the cases of hazing, sexual harassment, and corruption,” said Bagangan.

Bagangan noted while suspensions and other disciplinary actions had occasionally been given to student perpetrators, institutionalized violations remain unaddressed.

Bagangan further warned such violations inside ROTC will escalate since it is directly managed by DND and AFP, who, themselves, are notorious in committing inhumane acts among their ranks and even upon their supposed constituents.

Since the institutions direct the program, Anakbayan Cordillera fears the extensive mistreatment of young student enrollees.

The youth leader added the program will inculcate blind obedience in the youth instead of genuine nationalism.

“From time to time, we have heard complaints of ROTC cadets being mauled in the name of discipline and patriotism,” noted Bagangan.

Learn from history.

Anakbayan Cordillera cited the recent reports of hazing and harassment in Benguet State University (BSU), alongside the history of corruption and abuses across the country.

From a fact sheet obtained by the group, a former cadet in the program at BSU, accused officers and unknown alumni of mauling and hitting him and his fellow students with wooden rifles.

The incident happened in the second semester of 2014, when he was still pursuing advanced courses in ROTC.

Anakbayan noted the decrease of enrollees in the program from almost 60 in the first semester to only 20 in the second, apparently due to the incidents of hazing and only one cadet was able to finish the training.

“Hazing in the ROTC is not an isolated case in the Cordillera,” added Bagangan, citing the case of Saint Louis University (SLU) student and ROTC cadet Arthur Salero who reportedly died of hazing in 1999.

Two reported cases of hazing also happened in the University of the Cordilleras (UC) in 1999 and 2000, and another in the University of the Philippines - Baguio (UPB) in 2000.

Bagangan also feared the efforts of the AFP in conducting surveillance on progressive student organizations by recruiting cadets in the Student Intelligence Network (SIN).

“Along with the President’s pronouncements, these incursions are not coincidental with the termination of peace talks between the government and the revolutionary movement and the declaration of all-out war,” he said.

The youth leader claimed that mandatory ROTC will further scaffold the State’s intent to silence the struggle of the people, as it has tried to through Oplan Bayanihan and now, Oplan Kapayapaan.

“Service to the basic masses instills genuine nationalism, and the ROTC – with its abusive, violent, and impunity-ridden nature – will never be able to accomplish this,” Bagangan said.