• The controversial mandatory military training act still has to undergo Senate scrutiny
  • Mandatory ROTC for students was made optional in 2001
  • The PCO said Marcos "expressed elation" over the bills passing House processes

The House of Representatives has approved on their final readings 10 of the 20 priority bills highlighted by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), including the widely-debated mandatory military training proposed act.

Half of the priority bills backed by the Marcos administration passed through the House's final reading Wednesday, and were forwarded to the Senate, the Philippine Star reported.

Among the bills that made it through the watchful eye of House representatives were the proposed Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery Bill, the proposed Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act, the proposed Internet Transaction Act, the bill that will create the Medical Reserve Corps, the proposed Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act, the bill condoning the unpaid amortization and interests of loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries, the bill that will establish the Philippines' very own Disease Prevention and Control agency, the proposed amendment to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law and the controversial National Citizens Service Training Program (CSTP) Act.

The said proposed legislation will repeal the previous National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001 that made Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) optional and voluntary.

With the CSTP Act, the Filipino youth will be mandated to "undergo training and may be called upon to defend the State and render personal military or civil service under conditions provided by the law," as per CNN Philippines.

A four-year optional ROTC program is proposed under the CSTP Act, and will be crafted by the Commission on Higher Education and the Department of National Defense. The Armed Forces of the Philippines will administer the said four-year program.

The previous ROTC program only required two academic years.

Also under the proposed bill, students enrolled in undergraduate programs in both public and private higher education institutions, as well as those enrolled in two-year technical vocational programs, will be required to undergo training in various skill sets for four semesters or two academic years.

The trainings will include citizen soldier education, mass disaster response and management, individual survival, civic duty and safety skills.

In November, students and activist groups conducted a unity walk to protest the proposed mandatory ROTC program, arguing that the government should instead focus on providing a "100% safe, accessible, and quality education" for Filipino youth instead of reviving a dead program.

Earlier last year, multiple progressive groups signed a petition to also protest the mandatory ROTC program, citing additional expenses for students and their families and the alleged culture of violence and corruption, which were reported before the program was made optional in 2001.

Meanwhile, Marcos was happy over the progress on his administration's priority legislations, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said in a press release Wednesday.

"President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. expressed elation Wednesday on the progress of his priority legislations, hoping that they will be passed into law to support his development agenda," the PCO said.

According to Congress processes, House-approved bills will undergo "the same legislative process" in the Senate, which means it has to go through three Senate readings before it is approved.

After the bills weather through the Senate's legislative processes, a Conference Committee composed of both senators and representatives still have to settle, reconcile or remove provisions of approved bills before the final version finally reaches the president.

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Representative image. Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay