A viral tweet on the passage of a bill making the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) mandatory for Grade 11 and 12 students is misleading. While the House of Representatives did approve the measure, it happened three years ago in the 17th Congress. The bill remains pending in both the House and the Senate in the current Congress.
Netizen Gerry Cacanindin posted on May 19 a graphic taken from Manila Bulletin’s May 20, 2019 Facebook post following the approval that day of House Bill 8961 or the bill seeking to revive mandatory ROTC. Without mentioning its original date, the picture was captioned:
Main weakness of Filipino students: English, Math, Science. Solution:
This led some Twitter users to believe that the bill was “swiftly” passed after presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced that his running mate in the May 9 elections, presidential daughter Sara Duterte, will be appointed as education secretary. Duterte previously said during the campaign that if elected, she will push for mandatory military service for all Filipinos.
In the reply and quote retweet sections of Cacanindin’s post, one reader said, “Agad agad? Ang sipsip naman nyang Congress na yan. Talaga gusto nilang ipakita ang show of power (That fast? This Congress is trying to gain favor. They really want to show power).” Another said, “Napapanic ako ng konti, disclaimer naman sana na three years ago pa ‘to (I slightly panicked, there should’ve been a disclaimer that this was from three years ago).”
Although the House of Representatives passed the proposal on third and final reading in the 17th Congress, its counterpart measure in the Senate did not go beyond second reading until Congress closed session on May 27, 2019.
The current Congress has not passed the 22 mandatory ROTC bills in the House and seven in the Senate, all of which are pending at the committee level. The 18th Congress is scheduled to reconvene on May 23 and will be spending days canvassing the votes for president and vice president. Its session will end on June 3.
Authors of these bills include Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, a supporter of the Marcos-Duterte ticket; Marcos’ sister, Sen. Imee Marcos; and senators Ronald dela Rosa and Sherwin Gatchalian, who are also allied with President Rodrigo Duterte and Marcos.
President Manuel Quezon signed Executive Order 207 in 1939 which made ROTC mandatory for male students in colleges and universities with a population of 100 and above. In 1967, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. issued Executive Order 59 which raised the enrollment requirement to 250 male students.
However, the 2001 murder of University of Santo Tomas student Mark Welson Chua after exposing systemic corruption and abuse in the program intensified calls to abolish mandatory ROTC.
A year later, Congress enacted Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program (NSTP). Under the law, ROTC was made one of three program components that college students can choose from alongside Literacy Training Service and Civic Welfare Training Service.
Every college student is required to complete an NSTP course to graduate.
Cacanindin’s Twitter post received 22,100 likes, 3,082 retweets and 2,817 quote tweets as of writing. A similar post on his Facebook account garnered 1,002 reactions, five comments and 339 shares. (RC)
This article is written in collaboration with FactRakers, a fact-checking initiative of the UP Journalism Department.