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Concerns over Philippine reinstitution of student military training plan

MANILA (UCAN): On May 20 the Lower House of the Philippine Congress approved a bill making the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programme mandatory for Grade 11 and 12 students.
 
The ROTC programme was made optional in 2002 following the killing of a student, Mark Welson Chua who exposed corruption in the scheme at the University of Santo Tomas.
 
Chua was allegedly killed by his superiors in March 2001 and his death sparked calls for the abolition of ROTC in schools.
 
Cadets in a northern Philippine university also complained of physical and sexual abuse while female cadets in Manila and in Mindanao also reported physical and sexual abuse, including an attempted rape.
 
The new bill states military training “shall apply to all students ... in all senior high schools, both public and private.”
 
It adds that the aim of the training programme is to “instill patriotism, love of country, moral and spiritual virtues, and respect for human rights and adherence to the Constitution.”
 
However, Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, warned against abuses that might result.
 
“There are many good aspects (to the programme), but the problem comes with implementation,” he said.
 
The bishop noted that in the past, ROTC was a “waste of time and money because young people did not learn anything.”
 
The bishop, who heads the Episcopal Commission on the Laity of the Catholic bishops, said, “I hope it will be educational and create patriotism among the young.” 
 
He also warned those who will run the scheme to ensure that the rights of children be respected.
 
Duterte has claims he wants to reintroduce ROTC to “instill patriotism” among the young and to keep them away from using drugs.
 
Childrens rights group, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, however, said basic rights, safety and security will “severely be undermined” as ROTC will include marksmanship training and weapons orientation.
 
Salinlahi also criticised the “militarism” ROTC promotes.
 
The alliance’s secretary-general, Eule Rico Bonganay, said it “develops vulnerable young minds submissive to authorities.”
 
He also warned that introducing mandatory military training is tantamount to reneging international commitments on the protection of children from recruitment into the armed forces.
 
As state party to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Philippines is obliged to promote and enact policies that place importance on the best interests of the child.
 
In 2008, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said military training for high school students, “promotes militarism and is contrary to peace-building education.”
 
It recommended that the Philippines abolish “the military content from the training and to promote instead the values of peace and respect for human rights within the education system.”
 
There is no conscription into the Philippine armed forces.

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