The world is at war. Pope Francis said that Christmas festivities are a charade because the world has chosen war and hate. The Holy Pope’s statement came in the heels of an attack in Paris on the 13th of November by suicide bombers and terrorists killing some 130 people and injuring about 350, some seriously. This was followed by France’s swift reaction—launching an airstrike against ISIS strongholds in Syria—two days later. A few days thereafter, terrorists, believed to be Islamic, stormed an American-owned hotel in Mali, a former French colony, killing some 20 people and taking into hostage hotel guests. The reality is, there has never been a day in the world where war has not been happening some place or the other.
Here at home, war has been happening in several parts of Mindanao for decades now. Even Metro Manila has had its share of terrorist attacks that have claimed lives. On top of terrorist threats, recent events relating to the Philippines’ and other South East Asian countries’ sea dispute with China have caused tensions that could potentially escalate into serious security concerns. A friend of mine who looks at all events from a spiritual standpoint said that the world is going through a cleansing and reconstruction phase—a painful but essential process toward attaining world order.
Still, even as there are spiritual warriors among us who pray for world peace we, as citizens of the world, cannot just stand by and watch as destruction and chaos happen. A fellow lawyer who used to be a member of Congress and an active advocate of national defense and security told me that we can no longer delay the reactivation in college curricula of the Reserved Officers’ Training Corps Program, better known as ROTC. The concept of military training of college students via the ROTC program originated from the United States of America. The first university to adopt it in the Philippines was the University of the Philippines which made it a course in 1922. Several other universities followed suit. When the National Defense Act was passed in 1935, the ROTC program became mandatory in all colleges and universities, paving the way for the filling up of reserved officers’ posts in the Philippine Army.
The ROTC cadets from the 33 colleges and universities that had active ROTC units took part in World War II. The cadets from Manila defended Bataan while the cadets from the Visayas comprised 45 percent of the 75th Infantry Regiment of the US Armed Forces in the Far East or the USAFFE. In 2001, however, after an ROTC cadet from the University of Santo Tomas was brutally murdered after the exposés he made concerning corruption and irregularities in the ROTC training in UST, Congress passed a law in 2002 making ROTC a non-mandatory course and replacing it instead with the National Service Training Program. The problem with the new program was that most students chose the other options allowed in the program such as civic welfare service or literacy training rather than military training service.
Is there reason to reinstate ROTC as a mandatory course? The Association of Generals and Flag Officers believe so because it arouses in students a sense of patriotism and service-orientation and teaches them discipline. The ROTC program, according to the organization of generals and flag officers, prepares male students for national defense and trains them with leadership skills and the basics of military service in order to produce capable Armed Forces reservists.
In July 2013, a bill reinstating the mandatory character of the ROTC program in all colleges and universities was introduced in Congress by Representative Francis Gerald Abaya. His explanatory note said that in the event of foreign incursions, the Philippines will be duty-bound to protect its territory. He emphasized too that the Philippine Constitution states that the government may call upon the people to defend the state and to render personal, military or civic service. The bill, unfortunately, has been relegated to the back burner. Meanwhile, China has gone full steam in creating islands on reefs that the Philippines claims as belonging to its territorial waters, with no regard to marine and environmental destruction.
If the Philippines is ever forced to go to war to defend its territory, will it have enough men to render military service? We, Filipinos, are not war-driven. Yet, when we are left with no other choice, we must at least have some muscles to flex. While the US and other nations support us in principle, in the end it will be just us if we wish to be respected as a nation. Prayers help but, then again, even God expects us to help ourselves.
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