House approves NCSTP bill on final reading

YOUTH activists from the College Editors Guild of the Philippines stage a die-in protest at the Mendiola Peace Arch in Manila on Dec. 12 early morning to denounce the proposed mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in schools. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE HOUSE of Representatives on Thursday approved on 3rd and final reading a measure that seeks mandatory military training for public and private tertiary education students.   

House Bill 6687, certified by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as urgent, got 276 affirmative votes, while four opposed and one abstained.  

Under the proposed law, the National Citizens Service Training Program (NCSTP) will be required for all students enrolled in undergraduate degree programs in all public and private higher education institutions and at least two-year technical-vocational education and training programs.   

The program shall be administered for at least four semesters and 240 hours in two academic years.  

The NCST program “shall provide the students with practical and applicable knowledge and skills that are necessary, essential, and ideal for survival, and for attaining resilience, and to ensure the immediate availability of these skills in times of local and national emergencies and disasters, both natural and man-made.”  

The curriculum will also “instill in students the values of civic mindedness, volunteerism, and genuine service to others. It shall develop tertiary education students to be community crisis managers and leaders in times of emergencies and disasters,” reads the bill.   

The NCSTP will be a requisite for graduation of all tertiary education students.  

Students who complete the NCSTP program will be incorporated in the National Service Reserve Corps and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Reserve Force.  

The optional Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program will become a four-year baccalaureate degree course, wherein graduates will be “capable of immediate deployment as commissioned officers of the AFP.”  

The Department of National Defense, AFP, and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will design the ROTC baccalaureate degree program.  

In an earlier press conference, opposition lawmakers expressed their dissent on the bill. 

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel said the bill would only normalize military presence in educational institutions. “What is most disturbing is that the NCST[P] normalizes the presence of armed forces in campuses by building School-based Ready Reserve Units under the AFP, contrary to making schools zones of peace,” he said.  

Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Party List Rep. Arlene D. Brosas said, “The youth does not need mandatory [military training]. What they need is access to quality education that will enable them to attain skills that they can use to serve marginalized sectors.”  

House deputy minority leader and ACT Teachers Party List Rep. France L. Castro said that the bill would decrease funds for the Universal Access to Free Tertiary Education. It would also be costly to parents and students.  

Various student groups have also opposed the proposed law.  

The House bill is now up for transmission to the Senate, where there are several pending counterpart bills. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz 

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