Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson.  (PNA file photo) 

MANILA -- The proposed mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) training for senior high school students does not force high school students to become soldiers, the spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo was reacting to Senator Imee Marcos' pronouncement that she cannot accept the proposal, saying, "You really cannot force a kid to become a soldier."

"We take cognizance of the view of the good Senator Marcos as against 'forcing the kid to becoming (a) soldier' with regard to the ROTC. With all due respect, however, we maintain that taking and completing the ROTC program does not make him -- or her -- ipso facto a soldier," he said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Friday.

Arevalo noted that the proposal to revive the ROTC training merely prepares the country’s youth and capacitates them to respond to exigencies, such as calamities and national emergencies.

"Unless, in their own volition, these young and patriotic Filipinos opt to join the Armed Forces of the Philippines," he added.

Citing Article II Section 4 of the Constitution, Arevalo said it is the prime duty of the government to serve and protect the people.

"Thus, the government may call upon its citizens to render personal, civil, or military duties to defend the State. And the ROTC program readies our men and women to fulfill that constitutionally mandated obligation," he said.

AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., said these times call for the reintroduction of ROTC as it is needed to train and instill among the youth the values of discipline, nationalism, respect for authorities, and love of country, among others.

In a letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III dated June 3, President Rodrigo R. Duterte urged the Senate to certify the immediate passage of Senate Bill 2232, which institutionalizes ROTC in senior high school.

On May 20, the House of Representatives voted 167-4-0 to approve on third and final reading their version of the ROTC bill, House Bill 8961.

Under House Bill 8961, ROTC training would apply to “all students in Grades 11 and 12 in all senior high schools in public and private educational institutions” and shall be a requirement for graduation.

The following students may, however, be exempted: those who are physically or psychologically unfit; those who have undergone or are undergoing similar military training; those who are chosen by their school to serve as varsity players in sports competition; and those who may be exempted from training for valid reasons, as approved by the

Department of National Defense, upon recommendation by an educational institution where the student is enrolled.

The proposed measure also strictly prohibits the use of ROTC training for “political” objective and teaching and instilling a particular political ideology on students.

House Bill 8961 also bans hazing and other forms of physical or mental abuse. (PNA)