By Niceforo Balbedina / Pacific Times

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros. HONTIVEROS FB PAGE

The proposed 2-year mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program may actually be a violation of international law, according to Akbayan senator Risa Hontiveros.

In a press statement, the opposition senator said that Senate Bill No. 2232 which seeks to revive the mandatory ROTC program and require students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12 to be enlisted is a violation of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a protocol to which the Philippines is a party.

“Most students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12 are 16 to 17 year-olds. They are minors. The protocol we are [a] party to ensures that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years old are not compulsorily recruited into the armed forces”, explained Hontiveros.

“Since the Armed Forces of the Philippines is also composed of a ‘citizens’ armed force which shall undergo military training’, we would be violating our international commitment if we compulsorily recruit into the reserved forces those who are not of the age of majority,” she added.

Hontiveros reiterated her stand on keeping the said program optional while expressing concern over the funding and other logistical components required by the bill.

“There are around 11,000 high schools in the country. How do we overcome the financial burden of institutionalizing ROTC in all these high schools? How can we assure the public of proper implementation when we can barely sustain our K to 12 program?” she asked.

Hontiveros said that while she recognizes the value of military education and training for students to mobilize them for national defense, she said it should be kept optional and part of a wide array of options that students can choose from to partake in social and civic duties.

“As a PMA widow, I understand the value of military education and training for national defense preparedness. But it should remain optional,

“Students must be given options of how to fulfill their socio-civic responsibilities to the country,” she added.

“Love of country and the defense of its sovereignty can take many forms. It can take the form of active citizenship and volunteerism in the deployment of social welfare services, teaching literacy and numeracy skills to schoolchildren and yes, even reserve military training,” Hontiveros said.

“I am curious as to why we look to mandatory militarism as a way to promote nationalism, whilst at the same time removing National Language and Panitikan as mandatory courses in schools? Mandatory militaristic courses don’t have the monopoly of inculcating love of country. Love of country should be an expression of a deeper understanding of social responsibility,” Hontiveros ended.