The National Service Training Program was also known as “An Act Establishing the National Service Training Program (NSTP) for Tertiary Level Students, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 7077 and Presidential Decree no. 1706, and for other Purposes” or Republic Act No. 9163. It was signed into law in January 23, 2002 amidst the various calls of dissenting sectors for its abolition or reform.
It invoked the constitutional provision regarding the “duty of the state to serve and protect its citizens,” specifically Article II (Declaration of Principles and State Policies), Section 2, which states that “The prime duty of the government is to serve and protect the people. The government may call upon the people to defend the state, and in fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required under conditions provided by law, to render personal military or civil service” (italics supplied). This is the same principle that created and sustained the Reserve Officers Training Corps.
The primary objective of the NSTP law is to promote the role of the youth in nation-building. As such, it aims to encourage the youth to become civic and/or military leaders and volunteers whom could be called upon by the nation in cases their services are needed.
Compared with the ROTC which specializes in military training, and the E-ROTC which granted three options for students yet was limited in implementation, the NSTP law ensured that the three components – Civic Welfare Service, Literacy Training Service, and Reserve Officers Training Corps – will be given the same and equal implementation in educational institutions. Moreover, it defined the different components, the duration of the training, coverage, etc.
The Three NSTP Components
The National Service Training Program is composed of three different components.
The Civic Welfare Training Service is geared towards activities that have social impact through activities that could contribute to “health, education, environment, entrepreneurship, safety, recreation and morals of the citizenry”, thus the CWTS component of the NSTP stressed the importance of youth involvement in broad programs or activities that will benefit the people. While the CWTS focused on programs to enhance the living conditions of the people, the Literacy Training Service has a more limited yet equally useful objective that is to “train students to become teachers of literacy and numeracy skills to school children, out of school youth, and other segments of society in need of their service”. LTS thus specializes in the education of the people, strengthening the education sector to empower the people through education.
Meanwhile, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, while deemed equally important by the NSTP law (it maintained its existence and nature mentioned in RA 7077 having the primary objective to prepare the youth in national defense, became merely a component of the program.
The NSTP required male and female students to undergo the program they have chosen for two (2) semesters or one (1) academic year in contrast with the ROTC which required males to take military training for four (4) semesters or two (2) academic years. Students taking NSTP will get three (3) units from taking the program; equivalent of 1.5 units every semester. Thus, in contrast to the mandatory – yet free – ROTC, students will now have to pay for their NSTP. This included the former cadets of the ROTC who enjoyed the free reservist program. Also, the law states that private learning institutions could offer one of the three options but required state colleges and universities to maintain their ROTC units together with an alternative unit from the two other options. The law also limited the existence of the ROTC in private and vocational institutions requiring it to have 350 cadets for it to be called a unit, otherwise – and considering other factors such as insufficient cadet number, lack of logistics to support ROTC program of instruction (POI), etc. – cross-enrolling the students to other schools for their NSTP is an option.
The goal of the law and of the program is to harness the strength and capacity of the youth to contribute to nation-building, thus the National Service Reserve Force was created to enlist CWTS and LTS graduates which is also equivalent to the Citizen Armed Force of the ROTC. In the event that the state will need people for its civic and literacy activities, it will merely utilize the personnel of the reserve force, the student volunteers the NSTP-CWTS and the NSTP-LTS has produced. As with the need of the Armed Forces for additional force for its defense campaigns, it can easily use its body of reservists in the Reserve Command.