Anakbayan is urging President Rodrigo Duterte to back off the proposed revival of mandatory service to the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC). The program has never instilled nationalism, social responsibility, or discipline to the youth. It is a training ground for fascist repression and corruption that must be abolished and not made mandatory.
Let us not forget that mandatory ROTC was stopped precisely because of its abusive character which came to a head with the brutal murder of University of Sto. Tomas student Mark Wilson Chua in 2001 after he exposed corruption in the UST Corps. His death became the catalyst that led to massive street protests against the program.
ROTC is no longer mandatory. But rampant violence and abuse of students’ rights under the program continues. There is recent the case of hazing of ROTC cadets from the University of Mindanao-Tagum who were repeatedly given strong blows by their higher ups on their chest and stomach. This was exposed in a video that went viral online last June 2016.
Meanwhile, 2 female cadets of the ROTC program in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) also complained to school authorities in January 2014 after they were hit by ROTC officials with half-inch wooden sticks and wooden rifles. This caused severe bruises on their palms and thighs.
These cases of abuse are only the tip of the iceberg. Physical, psychological, and verbal abuse are part and parcel of the ROTC’s military regimen which aims to brutalize trainees in order to make them execute whatever is commanded by higher-ups, including committing rights violations against the people.
In fact, the ROTC program has been utilized by active duty officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to conduct military surveillance, build student intelligence networks, and vilify activist groups in various schools.
Abuses are therefore not excesses but are built in at the core of the program, which is inherently fascist and based on fear and blind obedience to authority. ROTC is likewise a wellspring of corrupt practices, such as the selling of uniforms and other requirements at marked-up prices and soliciting of bribes from those wishing to avoid the course. This only brings added burdens on the pockets of students and their parents.
These abuses will only get worse if ROTC is made mandatory. Far from teaching any genuine sense of “love of country”, the ROTC will only impart the colonial mentality of AFP officials and men who are strong proponents of US military intervention and continued US politico-economic domination over the country.
President Duterte has claimed to be a progressive leftist and socialist. But ROTC is outrightly fascist. If he is truly for the oppressed, then it would not be too hard for him to call for the total abolition of the program instead of making it mandatory as the generals and rightwing demagogues in his administration recommend.
We vow to wage a strong campaign against the proposed revival of mandatory ROTC and mobilize thousands of students and youth on the streets to oppose what is fundamentally an abusive, burdensome, anomalous, and fascist program.
Anakbayan National Chairperson