(File photo)

MANILA – Two House of Representatives' panels on Tuesday approved the consolidation of several measures that would establish a mandatory National Citizens Service Training (NCST) program and an optional Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program.

During a joint hearing, the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, chaired by Baguio City Representative Mark Go and the Committee on Basic Education and Culture, chaired by Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, approved the substitute bill consolidating 27 measures on the ROTC and NCST programs with House Bill 6486 principally authored by House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez as the lead bill.

HB 6486 seeks to institute a national citizens service training program in all public and private tertiary education institutions by repealing Republic Act 9163, or the “National Service Training Act”.

The NCST program shall equip and organize the youth with necessary, essential, practical and pragmatic knowledge and skills for civic duty, emergency and disaster response and preparedness in the current frameworks of law enforcement, peace and order, territorial defense and national disaster risk reduction and management for mobilization for military and civil services that produces reservists for the National Service Reserve Corps (NSRC) and AFP Citizen Armed Force (AFP Reserve Force).

The lead bill also proposes an optional ROTC program for higher education students designed to produce officers for the Citizen Armed Force and Regular Force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In his sponsorship speech, co-author TINGOG Party-list Rep. Jude Acidre said the establishment of a unified, comprehensive and holistic national citizens service training and mobilization system would enhance the capacity of Filipinos to mobilize and perform their constitutional duty to render personal military or civil service to the State in times of calamities and disasters, national or local emergencies, rebellion, war or invasion.

Acidre further said in the implementation of the national citizens service training and mobilization system, strict monitoring, evaluation and accountability would be observed to prevent all forms of abuses, corruption, hazing, torture, data privacy rights violation and all forms of violation of human rights.

“Any incident or report of abuses, corruption, hazing, torture, data privacy rights violation or any form of violation of human rights would be immediately investigated, addressed, as well as the maximum penalty imposed on any proven perpetrator or violator,” he said.

He said the proposal is a structured, coherent and comprehensive legislative measure for the training and mobilization of the youth for their holistic development.

"This bill also gives life to the constitutional mandate of raising the youth as partners in nation-building, encouraging their early involvement in public and civic affairs, and developing a citizenry that is ready to defend the State in personal military and civil service," he said.

Atty. Spocky Farolan, director of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) legal and legislative service, informed members of both committees that the CHED, Department of National Defense (DND), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), in consultation with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Education (DepEd) and some other relevant agencies like the National Youth Commission (NYC), have come up with a consensus bill which is embodied in the bill filed by Speaker Romualdez.

“This is already a product of the discussion and deliberations made by the different agencies which is supposed to implement this new program that we want to introduce to strengthen the citizen service program in the Philippines,” he said. (PNA)