By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
SENATOR Sherwin T. Gatchalian is seeking a unified mechanism from the Department of Defense (DND) and Department of Education (DepEd) to address the possible cases of hazing, abuse, and corruption with the proposed revival of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in the education system.
The Senate committee on education, arts and culture on Wednesday opened its inquiry into the five Senate bills seeking to restore the ROTC either in the senior high school level or in college.
Mr. Gatchalian, chair of the subcomittee on the ROTC bills, instructed the DepEd and the DND to come up with a unified safeguard to prevent hazing and corruption in the mandatory military training after two agencies presented at the hearing two separate mechanisms to address the issue.
“We need concrete documents (on) the safeguards and mechanism to prevent abuses, hazing and corruption that can happen in our schools. This will be implemented in 11,000 campuses and schools so we need to make sure that DepEd is prepared….This is a joint effort between the DepEd and the DND, so talk to each other in order to come out with a mechanism in writing,” Mr. Gatchalian said.
“We don’t want to repeat what happened in the past. This is not a resurgence of the ills of the past. We need to make sure that we have concrete, written mechanisms to prevent all of these things from happening,” he added.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Reserve Command chief Brig. Gen. Rolando R. Rodil said grievance boards, composed of AFP officials, DepEd officials, parents and teachers, are to be convened to address adverse incidents in the ROTC program. He also noted disciplinary actions would also be imposed on AFP officials involved in the incidents.
For his part, DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito M.C. Umali cited an agency department order which establishes a child protection committee, composed of the school principal, guidance councilor, teachers, parents and students, to investigate the cases.
“From what I’m hearing we haven’t addressed the ills of the past. The activity is within the schools conducted by the Department of National Defense, but the mechanisms are different. We’re talking about the DepEd Order No. 40 that is the child protection committee then we’re talking about a grievance committee….You don’t seem coordinated when addressing the ills of the past,” Mr. Gatchalian said.
Meanwhile, lawyer Joseph Noel M. Estrada, executive director of the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAPSCU) and Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (CoCoPEA), expressed reservations about the restoration of the mandatory ROTC program, citing concerns over physical space and curriculum load.
“If we are to implement a two-year ROTC program in senior high school… there will be three million students who will be taking up ROTC. We lack physical space,” he said.
“And also in terms of curriculum, there is not enough space to accommodate the current curriculum in senior high (school)….Adding mandatory ROTC units in the senior high school program would be inconsistent with the policy, which is to decongest,” he added.
Defense Undersecretary Cesar B. Yano assured that the proposed ROTC would focus on values formation and not be military-centric. He said the DND’s contribution in the program would be military training to prepare and motivate the students “for future utilization.”
“The three major aspects are centered more on values development or values formation. And unlike in the old ROTC wherein it was only military which was tasked to craft the program of instruction, this will be done by the CHEd (Commission on Higher Education), DepEd and DND,” Mr. Yano said.
For his part, Mr. Rodil also said the activities would revolve around disaster risk reduction and management.
In an interview with reporters after the hearing, Mr. Gatchalian said he was inclined to support the suggestion of the DND to impose the mandatory ROTC program in the senior high school level.
“If it’s senior high school, there will be more students to train compared to college. Their (DND) suggestion is good and that’s what we want to pursue,” he said.
He also said the committee would push for the passage of the bill before the 17th Congress ends.
Its counterpart version in the House of Representatives, House Bill No. 8961, was passed on second reading on Feb. 6.
Congress is on its Feb. 9 to May 19 break for the May 13 midterm elections. It will resume from May 20 to June 27 for its last session in the 17th Congress.