By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Ronald dela Rosa on Thursday fumed over the remarks of a student leader who criticized his statements on the possible release of convicted murderer and rapist Antonio Sanchez.
National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) president Raoul Manuel, in voicing out his organization’s opposition to the proposed revival of the mandatory Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program in schools, alluded to Dela Rosa saying that Sanchez “deserves a second chance in life”.
“Siguro kung mahirapan tayo na i-uphold ‘yong ganito such as law enforcement and rights awareness, magkakatalo na lang amongst the ranks of our public officials na hindi po nag-aagree doon, especially if we have a senator who says na ‘okay lang na makalaya at may second chance yong isang rapist na mayor habang yong mga mahihirap ay madaling tokhangin na lamang’,” Manuel said at the Senate basic education committee’s hearing on the ROTC program.
Before the student activist could finish his speech, Dela Rosa sat up to intervene.
“Ang layo naman ng sinasabi mo, mister. Kasama ba yan dito sa hearing yong comment ko na yon? Ang layo naman,” Dela Rosa told Manuel.
Manuel tried to continue but was told by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, the committee chairman, to let Dela Rosa speak.
“Ang layo naman noon. Bakit ka nagkaganoon? Ano na ang nangyari sa utak niyo?” the raging senator asked.
Dela Rosa then said that he was offended by the NUSP’s belief that the ROTC is “false nationalism”.
Manuel, earlier, had said that countries that are imposing a mandatory military training face “imminent” war, unlike the Philippines.
“Anong tingin mo sa amin? Anong tingin mo sa – ganoon ka na lang mag judge sa amin? Jinu-judge mo kami na ganoon? Are you sure you are the true representation of that Filipino students? Ganoon ba? Iilan lang ‘yang mga makakaliwa diyan sa mga estudyante. Mas marami dyan ang gustong mag ROTC. I must tell you frankly,” Dela Rosa said.
The neophyte lawmaker went on to rant about Manuel’s “personal” attacks, telling the student to respect him as a senator and not mention issues that are off-topic.
Manuel attempted to respond to Dela Rosa but was again prevented by Gatchalian.
Dela Rosa then asked Manuel, “Do you love your country?”, which the latter answered in the affirmative.
“Okay you love your country. ‘Pag inatake tayo ng China dito sinong palabanin mo dyan sa mga Chinese na yan? NPA? You will call the NPA?” the former police chief said, raising his voice.
Responding to Dela Rosa, the student leader, on the other hand, rued the lack of “role model” in the ranks of the country’s armed forces.
“The AFP which is tasked to preserve our integrity and our national sovereignty ay hindi natin nakikitaan ng real intent to defend our country. So wala tayong role model,” Manuel said.
Gatchalian, finally mediating between the two, directed Manuel to submit instead their group’s position paper to the panel.
Sen. Pia Cayetano also moved to strike from the records Manuel’s statements about Dela Rosa.
But Dela Rosa, still not over Manuel’s criticisms, continued to scold the student.
“If you really represent the students ganyan na talaga ang state ng mind ng mga studyante sa ngayon na dapat baguhin natin. Mali po yon. Ako if naniwala ka sa akin mas matanda ako sa iyo mali yong sinasabi mo. Gusto mo akong tirahin sa ibang isyu na hindi naman natin tina-tackle dito,” he said.
He also defended his statements about Sanchez, saying this time that he actually wants the former mayor to be punished with death.
“I am for death penalty. Kung may death penalty noon dapat nabitay na yang Sanchez na yan. Pero kayo naman ayaw niyo ng death penalty. Ngayon bigyan ng second chance dahil na-reform na yong tao according to the computation eligible siya for pardon, ayaw na naman niyo! Saan na kami pupunta? Anong klaseng pag iisip yan?” Dela Rosa lamented.
“Kasi lang talaga kung ikaw ang representation ng estudyante ngayon ganoon na pala ang mga estudyante sa ngayon kawalang disiplina. Kahit ang senador kayang tirahin sa isang non relevant issue sa ganitong forum. Kaya dapat pala talaga ibalik ang ROTC para madisiplina kayong mga estudyante,” he continued.
Manuel apologized to the committee for his statements.