The ROTC revival

"Patriotism, love of country, disaster preparedness are things that can be taught to our citizens in the various stages of our educational process."


Being a product of the old ROTC program, I am also in favor of the suggestion of President Duterte in 2016 to revive ROTC training. But it is not the only reason.

Ever since the abolition of compulsory ROTC, the reserve component of our overall defense posture has suffered tremendously. In that 2016 speech, the President also said that the reintroduction of ROTC will help to “instill patriotism and love of country to the youth.” Taking the cue, his political allies took up the cudgels and a number of bills are now pending in both houses of Congress for the purpose of reviving the program. On the side of the public, there appears to be no violent opposition to the plan except from the usual quarters among them, the progressives who look at the proposal as another tool of the government to suppress the rights of the people whatever that means.

In a very recent TV talk show, one of the panelists even said that the ROTC program will become another tool of the government to go to war against its own people.

Before its abolition, ROTC training was mandatory for all first and second year college male students and was a requirement for graduation in college. The training was required by Commonwealth Act No. 1 otherwise known as the National Defense Act which was signed into law on Dec 21, 1935. It was the first law enacted by the Philippine Commonwealth. The law is long and detailed. It is recommended that anyone interested on the plan to revive the ROTC whether for or against should read the law in its entirety not only because of its comprehensiveness but also educational because of the evolution of military thought from then to the present. For example, not too many people probably know that the National Defense Act which up to now is still the operative law that is followed when it comes to the Armed Forces was the work of the late United States President Dwight Eisenhower when he was a Major in the staff of General Douglas MacArthur. The specific provision in the law for the ROTC program are contained in Title II, Article VI, Sections 35 to 39. Interestingly, the first sentence in the law is that the defense of the country is the duty of every able-bodied citizen.

Nowhere in the law does it talk about patriotism and love of one’s country. It is presumed that all citizens love their country and are willing to defend it when called upon. Patriotism and loving one’s country is taught and developed by teaching other subjects like history while citizens can show their pride in our country because of our history and democratic traditions.

The old ROTC was first and foremost a military training program whose graduates will become part of our military reserve component whether classified as ready or standby reserve who can be mobilized in times of emergency. In the talk show that I mentioned earlier, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines representative was against the part of the bill that mandates grades 11 and 12 to undergo the new basic ROTC program. The IBP wants that it should be the 1st and 2nd year university students instead. The Armed Forces representative objected to this because of the need to capture more students to be trained. It appears that only about 25 percent of all high school graduates continue to college.

The other panelist was completely opposed to the program suggesting that the money to be spent for the ROTC program should be just be used to buy school books. The nature of war is such that actual organized fighting or combat can only be done by the able-bodied citizens who have undergone military training. The other sectors of society contribute by way of producing the needs of the military so that it can fight properly. If organize fighting is over, irregular warfare can be pursued by way of guerrilla operations as we did during the Japanese occupation in World War II. Our country, being what it is, cannot afford to maintain a large standing Armed Forces and must therefore use available resources efficiently. Besides, our Constitution prohibits war as an instrument of national policy. Consequently, all we can do is to maintain an Armed Forces that is defensive in nature. The National Defense Act touches on this.

It is our misfortune however, that we have been battling an internal insurgency campaign that has been going on for the past 50 years. These internal conflicts that we have been engaged in whether Muslim, Communist or other terrorist groups have taken a toll on our economic development. They have also retarded our ability for a decent military capability that could credibly confront external threats. The main objective of the ROTC program must not be forgotten and that is to provide trained citizens to fight for the country in times of emergency. Now, it is appearing that there are add-ons to the proposed new ROTC program.

Other ideas have now entered the equation like patriotism, disaster rescue and other activities. This according to the planners is only addressing the new realities of the times. Fair enough, but experience teaches us that in instances such as the ROTC program, it is better to aim for one objective rather than aiming for multiple objectives to ensure that the product will be of superb quality. If it is military training that we need or want, let it be purely that. Patriotism, love of country, disaster preparedness are things that can be taught to our citizens in the various stages of our educational process.

Topics: Florencio Fianza , ROTC , Commonwealth Act No. 1 , National Defense Act
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