Reviving ROTC

Once more, there is news of renewed efforts to revive the mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) for all college and university students in the Philippines with the filing of House Bill 737 by Rep. Eduardo Gullas of the 1st District of Cebu.

KABATAAN Rep. Raymond “Mong” Palatino vowed to contest the renewed proposal as the ROTC is only used to teach “cadets how to become blind and docile servants” and “harass progressive student groups critical of the government.”

“With its grim and bloody human rights record, the AFP has no right to meddle with the academic affairs of our youth. A war-mongering and mercenary institution must not be allowed to infiltrate schools and teach students,” Palatino said.

“The AFP uses the program in its red-baiting campaign against progressive student groups. In many ROTC lectures, soldier-instructors conveniently tagged student activist groups as affiliated with the New People’s Army. The ROTC is clearly a threat to academic freedom,” he added.

It’s frustrating how reactionary elements of society keep on trying to revive a program that has been abolished in 2001 as a result of massive nationwide protest campaign by students, especially after the death of University of Santo Tomas student and ROTC cadet training hazing victim Mark Chua.

Here’s what I wrote about the repeated plans to revive the compulsory taking of this abusive program back when I was student council chairperson of the University of the Philippines Visayas Cebu College:

Today’s youth have been stereotyped as an ill-guided generation of text addicts, perennial mallers and night hoppers.

Stretched to the extreme, this image has been used to emphasize our supposed lack of discipline, social responsibility, patriotism, etc.

The same line has been used in pushing for the revival of the mandatory Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC). The Department of National Defense is now pushing for the amendment of the National Service Training Program for the purpose.

The twisted logic, however, cannot hide the fact that ROTC has never taught the youth discipline, social responsibility and patriotism. It was precisely the lack of discipline in the program that led to the abolition of its mandatory status four years back.

Indeed, some people used the ROTC as milking cow with uniforms and other requirements sold at marked-up prices. Likewise, huge amounts were amassed in bribes from those who would like to avoid the course.

Aside from being anomaly-ridden, the ROTC also violates our civil liberties. Consider the mottos such as “what you see, what you hear, when you go, leave it here” and “obey first before you complain.”

While admittedly our generation is a bit captivated with malling and texting, it is another thing to call us less socially responsible or apathetic. The call for the abolition of ROTC’s mandatory status was first made in the 1960s. Now, who succeeded in putting an end to it?

The youth’s idealism and potentials can be harnessed outside the ambit of an irrelevant abusive, and essentially fascists program.

Instead of bringing back mandatory ROTC, its proponents should instead lobby for greater state subsidy for education. Such a move will greatly help in promoting social responsibility and nationalism.

The killing of Bicol student leader Cris Hugo last March, the illegal arrest of the PUP central student council chairperson last April and the recent abduction of a community youth leader in Pagadian underscores the government-led violence against the youth.

A mandatory ROTC will only intensify the already horrifying state of civil rights under the Arroyo administration. ■

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