THE proposed two-year mandatory basic ROTC program may be in violation of international law.
Senate Bill No. 2232, which seeks to revive the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), requires students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12 to be part of the program. She said that it violates the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a protocol to which the Philippines is a party.
Most students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12 are 16 to 17-year-olds. They are minors. The protocol we are party to ensures that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years old are not compulsorily recruited into the armed forces.
Since the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] is also composed of a citizens’ armed force which shall undergo military training, we would be violating our international commitment if we compulsorily recruit into the reserved forces those who are not of the age of majority.
We’re also concerned over the funding and logistical requirements in making ROTC mandatory. There are around 11,000 high schools in the country. How do we overcome the financial burden of institutionalizing ROTC in all these high schools? How can we assure the public of proper implementation when we can barely sustain our K to 12 program?
While I recognize the value of military education and training for students to mobilize them for national defense, it should be kept optional and part of a wide array of options that students can choose from to partake in social and civic duties.
As a PMA widow, I understand the value of military education and training for national defense preparedness. But it should remain optional. Students must be given options of how to fulfill their socio-civic responsibilities to the country. Love of country and the defense of its sovereignty can take many forms. It can take the form of active citizenship and volunteerism in the deployment of social welfare services, teaching literacy and numeracy skills to schoolchildren and yes, even reserve military training. (By Sen. Risa Hontiveros)