Press Release
January 25, 2023

Pia's expresses strong reservations, urges health debates, including hearing the voice of youth groups on the proposed mandatory ROTC bill
Manifestation of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Senate hearing on the proposed mandatory ROTC bill

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

Mr Chairman, I am happy to give a very short intervention for the consideration of our esteemed resource persons, many of whom I know are learned men, most are men yata, yung spokesperson natin sa DND. Sana magdala din kayo ng babaeng spokesperson para may gender voice din tayo. But good afternoon po sa lahat ng spokespersons natin.

Mr Chairman, let me go straight to the points I'd like to raise. I've been studying the bills, and as you know, I joined you in the first hearing last Congress, if you recall. I've been studying these bills and I note that the the bills have their foundation and history way back in the original ROTC, I don't know if it was a law or mandate that goes back in 2012. Sen JV Ejercito mentioned this in his explanatory note.

And as I review the different bills, it seems to me that it is still premised on that narrative, yun bang turn of the century where the Filipino people... their human selves are putting their lives at stake to defend their country. Literally yung katawan nila ang human shields. And of course, our Chairman and our colleagues here who have a military background know more about that than me, diba? From bow and arrows to shotguns to propeller planes that were dropping bombs, I am talking about world wars, na naging jets na, naging nuclear war na, and now we're talking about chemical warfare and cyber attacks, and the like.

So I humbly submit that these bills do not represent those realities. When I read the bills, of course, you will not see anything there that talks specifically about marching on the field and all that. But it seems to be a very physical endeavor, that's why apparently there is an exception on those with special needs, which was actually pointed out by the representative from the National Youth Commission.

I am all for physical activity, you know that. I've done marathons, Ironmans, triathlons. I am all for physical activity. I believe a healthy body goes hand-in-hand with a healthy mind. But if we are truly trying to address these existential threats that we need to face, to me these would be some of the following.

These 'existential threats' to me are food security, I need not go into details but just the lengthy discussions even us senators had both on the floor and off the floor, from asin, the passion of our Majority Floor Leader, Sen. Joel Villanueva, from asin to onions, to eggs. Food security is a real threat.

Another threat that we have is water scarcity. Already in some parts of the country. We in Metro Manila, I know because I am from the southern part of Metro Manila, in BF Homes, Paranaque, which is a middle class subdivision. Wow, decades na yan walang tubig at certain times of the day. And in Visayas and Mindanao, there are certain areas there that don't have electricity, water. These are serious threats to our daily existence and productivity as a nation.

And then third would be the effects of climate change. Sen. Loren Legarda who, always, is on top of this issue, she delivered a privilege speech just this Monday. We have islands that are sinking. The homes of people can be gone in a matter of decades.

And then the draining of our human capital. All over the world, every day, I see news about health workers going on strike in other parts of the world, countries that are richer than us, in the US, in the UK, hospitals that are in dire demand of health workers. Schools that are in demand of teachers. Saan nila kukunin yun? Sa Pilipinas po. They are getting our very valuable human resource for their own needs, not for ours, but for their needs. Karapatan naman po ng mga kababayan natin to go where their heart leads them, where they need to go.

But these are clear existential threats which I don't think any of our colleagues and our esteemed resource persons can deny. So, my challenge, dear colleagues, and to our resource persons, is how can we use best this human capital?

Kasi when I read the bills, the narrative seems to be nga, yung pagkaalam ko sa ROTC. I'd like you to educate me and tell me how these existential threats I mentioned will be addressed in that way? Because I would prefer, and this is a personal preference, with all due humility, that we continue to invest in the education of our youth for STEM related classes [and] courses, where they would be able to develop our own strengths by way of ensuring that wala nang magugutom sa Pilipinas; by way of ensuring that we desalinate water, we filter water so that we have clean water. And tama naman ang mention nang disaster risk, but these are very specific skills training that are required.

And I humbly submit that we will be taking away valuable hours that should be used, whether it's in the classrooms or on the field, developing these skills that our youth, either already have or can be further honed, but not by way of military training per se.

Now on the issue of compulsory, narinig ko some of the comments of our dear colleagues, you want a professional group, you want them to be dedicated. Pero the most professional and dedicated are those who choose it for themselves. Hindi yung mandatory na wala ka naman choice and you are forced to do something. Medyo mahirap to get dedication out of that.

And then in terms of love for country and patriotism, I submit that our men in uniform are patriots and devoted to our country. But I also would like to forward the idea that when are we most united? Hindi ba ho when we watch sports, when we see the former Sen. Manny Pacquiao defend the title, when we watch the Olympics, kahit po kaming mga senators cheering in the lounge, nag-break kami sandali just to cheer for EJ Obiena and the other Olympians. And I don't think anyone can question their dedication, their discipline. So kung ang pag-uusapan is discipline, and I know colleagues of ours who swear that they developed discipline through ROTC training. Ako din, I swear that I developed my discipline through sports training as a varsity athlete. So there are different ways of developing discipline, your honors.

And this is really like what I'd like for us to determine when we come up with a bill that I don't think any of us would deny that the objectives are good. Developing discipline, love of country, patriotism. We all agree on that. But what is the way to get to that? That is something I feel has to be explored further, deeper. Because there is just not one way, your honor.

So yan ang humble request ko, na pag-aralan ito and tell me, I am happy to sit down and discuss this further because I am really worried na at the rate our education system is going, and we have improved, to take away valuable time from the students to do this, when they could be still serving our country and maybe be more effective by pursuing the courses that are already available there. We have a shortage of nurses, doctors. So mamamatay din ang mga kababayan natin from diseases when we don't have enough health workers to take care of them.

I'd rather, with all humility, that they be working on this, their degrees to save lives, than an existential threat. And I think the existential threat of being invaded, and the skill requirement naman that will come out of a 2-year graduate will really not be - and again with due respect, I don't know, I am not an expert - to address that. Pero if we have doctors who are saving lives, I can assure you that they will save lives. If we have teachers who will teach better and come up with students that can address IT cyber attacks, our Chairman was very active in the hearings on that, as were many other colleagues. Cyber attacks are real but we cannot even begin to counter that if we don't have the expertise in those areas. Those are the areas I feel that are important for us to look into.

So I rest my case there, Mr Chairman. You know that I believe in healthy debates and I am a team player. I would like to work with you on this. And by the way, with all due respect din, I am a graduate of ATCSS, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. I was sponsored by the US government to study in Hawaii and ang classmates ko karamihan are civilian and men, mostly men, pero alam ko may ladies din pero wala lang akong classmate. My classmates were all men in uniform except for one other woman from Hong Kong. So my point is, yung studies namin doon, lahat were on 'soft security' kasi these were the threats. Soft security is what I talked about - yung water scarcity, food scarcity, human lives being lost to health issues. And so that's the discussion that I'd like to be a part of.

And on a last note, thank you Mr Chairman for giving me the time to express my views on this. I also take note that it's only the National Youth Commission that spoke on behalf of the youth. I believe that there are other youth groups who would like to speak also. And sa akin lang naman po, having been a senator for nakalimutan ko na gaano katagal, 13 years, the Senate has always to my mind been the best venue for the healthy exchange of ideas. So I hope that we will also be able to listen to them. I know it's the prerogative of the Committee Chair kung sino magsasalita. Pero [for this bill] changing the 4 or 2 years that students are going to be in school, I think it's very important that we listen to them, including other experts on developmental psychology and education, because I'd really like to know if yung goals natin would be achieved through this manner.

So yun lang po Mr Chairman and thank you very much.

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