MANILA – Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday came to the defense of the proposed revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps program amid calls to scrap the proposal in view of the death of hazing victim Matthew Salilig.
Dela Rosa and Gatchalian are the principal authors of the Mandatory Basic Reserve Officers’ Training Corps bills being heard in the Senate.
In a statement given to reporters, Dela Rosa tagged the call for junking the ROTC bills as a “desperate move” from the groups opposing the training program.
“What a desperate move from anti-ROTC leftist group. What is the connection? The victim died because of fraternity hazing and not of ROTC training,” Dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa emphasized that the ROTC bill provides for the establishment of local grievance boards and a national grievance and monitoring committee that will conduct investigations motu propio on reported or monitored abuses being committed under the ROTC program.
The senator added that making the ROTC program optional will also push for an “optional defense of the country” against security and sovereignty threat.
“Kung gusto natin na ipagpatuloy na gawing optional ang ROTC, at kapag tayo ay nilusob ng ibang bansa gaya ng China, gagawin na rin nating optional ang pagdepensa ng ating bansa, at isasantabi natin ang ating Constitution na nagsasabing tungkulin ng bawat Pilipino ang pagdepensa ng estado (If we want to continue pushing to make ROTC optional, and when in case we are attacked by other countries like China, then we also make it optional to defend our country and set aside the Constitution which mandates every Filipino to defend our State),” Dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa said he is hoping he can deliver his sponsorship speech on the proposed ROTC revival bill before the Senate adjourns its regular session on March 25 and possibly ratify the measure before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian said Salilig’s death was due to hazing “perpetrated by individuals who have absolutely no respect for the rule of law,” pertaining to the involvement of a fraternity in the incident.
Gatchalian stressed the goal of the ROTC remains the “inculcation of discipline and good citizenship among the youth.”
Senator Christopher Lawrence Go also hit the idea of linking the revival of the ROTC program to the recent hazing incident, emphasizing that people should not be confused because (ROTC) has nothing to do with what happened to Salilig.
“It’s different things, the hazing, and ROTC. We want to teach our youth with proper discipline, love of country, the spirit of ‘bayanihan’ (cooperation) as well as respect for others,” Go said.
Go assured the military training for ROTC members will never require any violence through hazing.
On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Risa Hontiveros have expressed support for the scrapping of the mandatory ROTC bill following Salilig’s hazing death.
Senator Nancy Binay also questioned the need to revive the ROTC program, saying that “a culture of violence has no place in our civilized society.”
“The reasons why the ROTC program was suspended were because of corruption, abuse, and hazing? We need to put a stop to the decadent culture and violent tradition which have long been embedded in the system,” said Binay.
In response, Gachalian said that “it is precisely incidents like these (hazing deaths) that ROTC intends to eliminate by molding our youth to respect our country and one another.”
The Anti-Hazing law, he emphasized, is “airtight and equipped” with safeguards that will prevent abuses from happening.
Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe called on the authorities for stricter implementation of the Anti-Hazing Law.
“Fraternity-related deaths have not stopped, and sadly, the implementation of the Anti-Hazing Law has been wanting,” she said. “We must see to it that our laws can protect our children who engage in activities that supposedly espouse good citizenship and fellowship.”
Poe likewise stressed that hazing victims must get justice “to avert breeding a wider culture of impunity against the youth.” (PNA)