House Bill 6687 or the proposed “National Citizens Service Training Program Act”, has been given the green light by the House of Representatives on Thursday, the 15th of December 2022. There were over 270 lawmakers voting in the affirmative, four in the negative and one abstention.
In the said bill, the program will be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) in all higher education institutions (HEIs) and by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) in all technical-vocational institutions (TVIs), with the Department of National Defense acting as consultation in both parties.
This will be mandatory “for all students enrolled in undergraduate degree programs in all public and private HEIs and at least two-year TVET (technical-vocational education and training) programs in all TVIs” in the country.
House Bill 6687 coverage and implementation details
The NCST Program’s curriculum must ensure that students who finish the program “shall have undergone the appropriate citizen competency training which shall include civic duty inculcation, literacy training services, survival and safety techniques including first-aid administration, and community or mass emergency and disaster response and management.”
The bill states that the program must be finished, “as far as practicable,” within the first two years of undergraduate degree programs and a two-year TVET program, except for “justifiable causes” and only upon issuance by the CHEd or Tesda of a certificate of exception.
“The NCST shall be a requisite for the graduation of covered tertiary education students”, the bill states.
Under the bill, the CHEd and Tesda are allowed to prescribe alternative NCST programs for students with special needs and persons with disabilities.
A Filipino student enrolled in a TVET program conducted for less than two years would, under the bill, be given special seminars, “as the TESDA and the appropriate government agency may prescribe.”
The bill seeks to create the National Service Reserve Corps (NSRC) which would be placed under the control and supervision of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council through the Office of Civil Defense.
Under the bill, the NSRC “shall be civilian in nature”. Citizen cadets who finish the NCST would be incorporated in the NSRC and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reserve Force. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) would still be optional.
Youth Groups Oppose mandatory NCST
There is strong opposition from youth groups to the NCST. Among which is the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines wherein they described the proposed National Civil Service Training bill (NCST) as “de-facto martial law” in schools.
“This bill gives military forces overwhelming power and authority over students, especially institutions like campus publications and student councils. The forced military training and campus militarization under (the proposal) give way to unlimited ways to attack our students and our freedoms. Supposed zones of peace universities and colleges are now zones of danger,” said CEGP national spokesperson Melanie Feranil.
The League of Filipino Students (LFS) also referred to the NCST as a “disguised” version of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.
“The rebrand buries the cases of injustice perpetrated under the ROTC program. Marcos Jr. is ditching the name ‘mandatory ROTC’ precisely because students are aware that it is a cesspool of corruption, abuse and violence. Despite what the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) believes, wearing a uniform and accepting orders without question does not make a person nationalist. In fact, these decorated criminals do not love our country at all. They only want an unrestricted presence in schools across the country in order to conduct brainwashing and surveillance operations,” they digressed.
Under the proposal approved on the third and final reading at the House of Representatives on Thursday, college students will be required to undergo military training under NCST, while ROTC will remain optional.
I was lucky enough not to have undergone ROTC. I also have friends and family who chose to skip this completely and find a workaround to eventually get their college certificates long after they finished their bachelor’s degree. In recent times though, I think we need this program especially with China being such a big bully. At the very least, we’ll have some semblance of readiness should things go south. Would you deem the same perspective? Feel free to comment below. Hope to hear from you soon and thanks!