(PNA file photo) 

MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Wednesday the survey he commissioned Pulse Asia to conduct has resulted in 69 percent of Filipinos agreeing to the proposed implementation of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Program in senior high school.

Gatchalian said about 71 percent of the respondents in the National Capital Region and 78 percent in the Visayas support mandatory ROTC in senior high school while 67 percent in Balance Luzon and 64 percent in Mindanao also say they support the proposal.

"Among socioeconomic groups, support for mandatory ROTC is stronger in Classes A, B, C (71 percent) and D (71 percent), compared to Class E (54 percent). The survey had 1,200 respondents," Gatchalian said in a statement.

He re-filed his Senate Bill 387, which seeks the institutionalization and administration of the Basic ROTC program for students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12.

"(The) Basic ROTC Program will include basic military training to motivate, train, organize and utilize students for national defense preparedness or civil-military operations. The bill provides, however, that no student below the age of 18 shall take direct part in hostilities," Gatchalian clarified.

The program, he said, also includes civic training and preparedness during actual disaster response operations that would enhance the capacity of the nation to produce the needed manpower and expand its human resources in times of war, calamities and disasters, emergencies, and in support of the law enforcement strategy of the government against crimes by creating a pool of trained reservists.

In Gatchalian's measure, a student who has completed the Basic ROTC program shall be registered in the Reserve Force upon reaching the legal age while students who will fail to undergo the mandatory Basic ROTC program will not be qualified for graduation.

"Exemptions, however, may be given to students who are certified psychologically and physically unfit by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Surgeon General, have undergone or are undergoing similar military training, and those who are chosen as varsity players in sports competitions," he said.

Gatchalian emphasized that Senate Bill 387 includes safeguards and ensures compliance with the Department of Education’s Child Protection Policy and laws, such as the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act (Republic Act [RA] 11188), the Anti-Hazing Act of 2018 (RA 8049), and the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (RA 7610).

He said it also seeks the establishment of Grievance Committees that shall receive complaints and conduct investigations on allegations of abuse, violence, or corruption.

"Hindi na tayo babalik sa dating ROTC, hindi na mauubos yung oras sa pagmamartsa, pagbibilad sa araw, importante yung (We will not return to the ROTC before, time will not be spent marching, too much exposure under the sun. What is important are the) values, discipline, additional skills, and love for country," he added.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa also filed a separate bill that would revive the mandatory ROTC.

The former PNP chief said reviving the ROTC would prepare the Philippines to defend itself from any form of aggression and any impending external threat by instilling in every able-bodied Filipino citizen their duty to defend the country.

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. included the ROTC Program in his 19-point priority legislative agenda. (PNA)