(File photo)

MANILA – Senators see Republic Act (RA) 7077 or the Citizen Armed Forces of the Philippines Reservist Act will ensure all Filipino students will be covered by the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) bill that is currently being pushed in the Senate.

This, after it was raised during a hearing on Wednesday by the Senate Sub-committee on Revitalized ROTC Act that students, who are taking up less than two years vocational courses or those who decided to work immediately after finishing senior high school, will not be able to join the ROTC training.

National ROTC Alumni Association (NARAA) Board Member Virgilio Garcia said they will be covered by RA 7077 which requires all male citizens between the ages 18-25, who are not reservists, to register for military training.

But the officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) Reservist and Retiree Affairs said RA 7077, which was passed in June 1991, have not been properly implemented due to conflicting provisions with the Local Government Code.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian warned that no one should be exempted from ROTC as it will create a divide in the society.

"Pag-isipan po natin yan (Let's think it over) because we'll have two classes of citizens -- one well-trained and one never entered any military training. We cannot just leave them outside the system because they're equally important in terms of human development, national development, and of course what we want to achieve which is boots on the ground, well-trained citizenry in philosophy of military training," Gatchalian said.

"We support that it willl be done in college for logistical and practical purposes. However, not every college-aged person is in college. Malaking (There is a big) population din wala sa (who are not in) college. We estimate about 2 million of that cohort, between 18 to 22, are not in college," he added.

Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, who chairs the subcommittee, told Senate reporters after the hearing that they will "most likely" excuse from ROTC students studying vocational courses in less than two years and out-of-school-youths.

He, however, said they are still required to undergo military training under RA 7077 which only exempts members of the clergy of any religious order or sect; those in the active service of the AFP and the Philippine National Police; superintendent and uniformed members of the National penitentiary, corrective institutions, and insane asylums; and licensed air and maritime pilots, navigators and merchant marine officers.

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa is confident that the ROTC bill will push through with just one hearing left despite some clamor from the AFP regarding manpower.

"Kakayanin talaga dahil meron naman tayong mga pwedeng ma-tap na magagaling na (We can really do it because we can tap good) stand-by reservist, not necessarily coming from the active service, na magagaling na instructors. So, pwede silang ma-mobilize (who can also be good instructors. So, they can be mobilized)," Dela Rosa said, assuring that he understands the point of the AFP and the Department of National Defense.

He also assured that the senators are ready to support the budgetary and logistical requirements of the measure once passed into law.

One of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s priority measures and certified as urgent, the ROTC Bill is to enhance the capacity of Filipino citizens to mobilize and perform their constitutional duty to render military or civil service to the State in times of calamities and disasters, national or local emergencies, rebellion, invasion, or war. (PNA)