Revisiting ROTC

THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines is all gungho on the approval of the mandatory inclusion of the Reserve Officers Training Corps in the collegiate level curriculum as was done in the past. There is opposition from the students, as can be expected because they want to avoid the rigors of military training. Who would want to march under the sun, move in unison, listen to some boring tactical officers who should have studied how to deliver a lecture, follow orders from officers who have bigger mouths than their brains, learn how to play unrealistic war games, study with mock-ups and graduate without handling real instruments of soldiery. To top it all, pay for them.

If we add the cost of being cadets, the program looks less likely to be embraced by patriots. These involve pay ROTC fees and supposedly prohibited donations.

If these criticisms hurt, well, it is intended to be so that the AFP can translate their lofty visions and beautiful promises into reality and make the ROTC what is intended it to be – a training ground for the young to love and defend their country.

There is no doubt that the purpose of the ROTC is to train the youth for what the Constitution said “ military and civic service”. But there is usually a chasm between purpose and performance and in this respect the AFP did their job so poorly that disappointment supported the passage of the law that made ROTC optional. The result after the law was passed indicates the level of discontent with the ROTC program. Most schools abandoned the ROTC.

Wise people learn from their mistakes and the years of hiatus must have given the AFP, particularly the Reserve Command a good opportunity to examine the past by listening to the schools, the reservists in all services  and the parents. This “listening” should not be perfunctory but a sincere desire to make the ROTC graduate a person the community can look up to as in the past.

The graduates of the ROTC program prior to its abolition, both those who remained in military service and those who opted for non-military careers have proven the value of the program. We can trace the history of our armed forces to show that ROTC graduates were the backbone of their commands, many overshadowing the graduates of the elite and government financed Philippine Military Academy.

By the way, the officer involved in the case in the University of Santo Tomas that led to the abolition of ROTC as a mandatory course, was a PMA graduate. Military or any fraternal elitism provides an excellent support system but taken into extremes can cause more harm than good. The attempt to create this kind of environment in the ROTC program had caused many to shun it.

If this assessment is rather nebulous it is, but those who completed ROTC know what this is about.

Should we bring back the ROTC? Definitely we should for the good it brings despite the downside of it. But the AFP must learn from its mistakes lest the pit into which the program fell are repeated and any future attempt to revive it would be futile. The AFP must “walk its talk” as it were when it said it proposed the revival of the ROTC because of its positive results for students and ultimately for the country.

The ROTC was established by two of the 20th century military geniuses – MacArthur who was the Supreme Allied Commander for the Pacific and General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe during World War II. They adopted the ROTC program of the United States to create a Citizens Army composed of a 75% reserves and 25% regular army. It suited well for the Philippines considering the geographic nature of the country and its logistical resources.

Their strategy worked more than expected because when the war erupted in 1941 the Philippine forces was composed almost entirely of reservists and recruits. Most of the regular force officers had surrendered leaving the guerrilla war to the ROTC graduates. The history of that war in the Philippines speaks for the gallantry and competence of the reservists. It is not therefore far-fetched to say that the reservists can rise to the challenge of the occasion.

Today the reserve officer has little chance to become a general not for lack of competence but from discrimination.

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