Celeb reservists? Concerns over proposal to augment ‘mandatory ROTC’ personnel

January 30, 2023 - 12:56 PM
ROTC cadets
Cadets of the Reserve Officers Training Corps in this updated photo (The STAR/KJ Rosales) 

A senator was reminded of other pressing matters in the country after suggesting that celebrity reservists can teach the proposed Reserve Offices’ Training Course to augment the lack of personnel raised by the defense department.

Sen. Bato Dela Rosa on Friday was asked for his solution about the concern of Defense Undersecretary Franco Gacal, who said the military would need to deploy 9,000 to 10,000 personnel to run the proposed revival of mandatory ROTC.

The figures were based on the assumption that there are members of the military assigned to each of the 2,400 higher educational institutions.

“The requirement is really enormous… [the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority] and out-of-school youth are not yet included here,” Gacal said before, adding that it was equivalent to around two infantry divisions covering the Davao, Caraga and Northern Mindanao regions.

Col. Ronald Jess Alcudia, executive officer of the military’s reservist and retiree affairs, added they cannot provide personnel to man all units of the program even if ROTC was not made mandatory.

Gacal previously raised his concern about making ROTC mandatory at a Senate Committee on Higher, Technical, and Vocational Education hearing on January 25.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has identified the revival of mandatory ROTC as one of his administration’s priority bills.

It was made optional after University of Santo Tomas cadet Mark Welson Chua was killed by his fellow cadet officers when he exposed corruption in the university’s ROTC unit.

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa suggested that the government can tap celebrity reservists like Matteo Guidicelli, who carries the rank of a second lieutenant in the Philippine Army Reserve, to teach the program to students.

Matteo also trained with the Scout Rangers and the Presidential Security Group.

“Puwedeng i-tap ang mga reservist. Maaari din bigyan ng allowance ‘yung mga celebrity katulad ni Lt. Guidicelli. Sapat na ‘yun. Mag-train pa sila sa IDC,” Dela Rosa said, referring to the Instructors Development Course.

He added that their presence will supposedly inspire students who will take up the program.

Former beauty pageant queens Winwyn Marquez and Beatrice Luigi Gomez also underwent basic military training and received recognition for their performances.

Dela Rosa also suggested to increase the annual recruitment quota of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to have more personnel for ROTC.

He also allayed fears of hazing and other abuses by saying that his bill, Senate Bill 1349 or the Reserve Officers Training Corps for Tertiary Education Act of 2022, has supposedly enough safeguards to prevent it.

The lawmaker said a committee composed of representatives of the Department of National Defense, school administrations and the Commission on Higher Education will be established in every school to handle complaints.

‘Learning crisis,’ food prices 

The lawmaker’s comments about celebrity reservists, however, raised some eyebrows on local Twitterverse as users reminded him of other more pressing concerns the country is facing.

“‘Yung reading comprehension ng mga school children mababa. [‘Yun’ sana ang mas unahin [niyo],” a Pinoy commented in response to Dela Rosa’s remarks.

Last week, a viral TikTok clip showed a group of young people incorrectly answering some tense-related questions in a “Past Tense” challenge.

They were initially asked to give the past tense of “say” but many got it wrong, instead answering “saying,” “will say” and “hello.”

The video has alarmed social media users, including former senator Sonny Trillanes and some educators.

Aniceto Orbeta Jr, president of state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies, previously said the country has been in a “learning crisis for a while now.”

“A vast proportion of our students are below minimum proficiency levels in reading, science, and mathematics,” he and distinguished visiting research fellow Vicente Paqueo said in a study before.

RELATED: Viral ‘past tense’ challenge video raises education concerns

Another Twitter user reminded Dela Rosa of the continuous price increase of basic commodities and food staples such as sugar, onions, salt and eggs which have driven the country’s inflation to a 14-year high.

“Paki ayos presyo ng bilihin,” the user commented on the lawmaker’s desire to push the mandatory ROTC program to students.

Earlier this month, the country’s onion crisis landed on TIME magazine with the title “In the Philippines, Onions Are Now More Expensive Than Meat. Here’s Why.”

Last December, a global price monitoring website said that the food staple has become the most expensive in the world.

READ: ‘Most expensive globally’: Filipinos cry over onion price at P300 per kilo‘Priced higher than meat, minimum wage’: Philippine onion crisis lands TIME feature

Reports said that the country has struggled to meet the demands for such food staples due to years of flawed importation policies, instances of cartels manipulating prices, the constant neglect of farmers and extreme weather.