THE Commission on Elections has proposed that voter’s education be included in the ROTC curriculum “to inculcate the importance of exercising the constitutional duties and rights of suffrage.” While this proposal appears superfluous because the ROTC program per se is rooted on the democratic system of government in which elections are the best part, the Comelec will perhaps define more clearly its intentions.
However, what the Comelec missed perhaps due to the long years that ROTC was out of the public mind was that the ROTC had played vital roles in the elections. During the period when political rivalry was so intense, the Commission called on the ROTC to assist in the conduct of peaceful elections.
On several instances the Comelec deputized the ROTC and posted them in hot political spots to prevent massive fraud and terrorism. The National Movement for Free Elections popularly known by its acronym, Namfrel, had called on the ROTC for election duty. It was only when martial law made elections a farce that the ROTC was not mobilized. However the election duties of the ROTC resumed after martial law until the program was made voluntary and few schools offered ROTC.
There was a time when traffic in Bacolod was “clogged” although there were few cars and jeeps. However, the streets were also narrow and as today, occupied by vendors. Traffic violations were rampant especially wrong parking or drivers smoking while operating their vehicles.
As the police at the time of the 1960s were not just crime fighters but also traffic policemen, there was a dearth of manpower to enforce traffic ordinances. Bacolod City Mayor Romeo Guanzon then tapped cadets to perform traffic duties. They were volunteers and deputized as “junior policemen” and provided with identifying brassard. As protection the Lions Club through Irving Villasor insured them for P10,000. The club paid for their P10 annual premium. The ROTC unit credited them for their service.
The junior policemen were tasked primarily with insuring correct parking, no smoking and no overloading. They directed traffic to relieve the traffic policeman who took a break. The cadets also insured that pedestrians crossed the street at the lane assigned to them. Jay walkers were few because the cadets would direct them to cross at the pedestrian lane.
The ROTC played an important role during the first years of the MassKara Festival. They assisted the police in security and crowd control but this role was phased out when the police units were reinforced by men from other stations. Nevertheless the ROTC joined in the celebrations with fancy drill competitions.
When communist rebellion took a nasty turn in the middle of the 1980s, the role of the ROTC was reduced considerably due to opposition by student activists. However the graduates or reservist were tapped by the AFP for certain roles in the anti-insurgency campaign.
The proposal of Comelec is therefore not without precedence. In fact the ROTC took duties for the country not just by learning about democracy and the elections but taking an active role in the process. Some ROTC cadets were even subjected to the rigors and threats that policemen and soldiers had to face.
In some elections when the police was not trusted by the Comelec, the gap for manpower was filled by the ROTC. In almost all elections the reservists, the graduates of the ROTC course were always called to temporary duty to stand by in case of need. This is hardly known by the public but they were there in their headquarters.
The point in this discussion is that the ROTC is a huge manpower source where students learn not only theory but also can practice their duties as citizens. The country has over 100,000 ROTC cadets once the school opened and thousands more graduate each year as reservists of the AFP. This is a large manpower reservoir that local governments, not just the AFP can mobilize for civic action group more than the annual blood letting by the Red Cross.
The government is now engaged in two-front war: anti-drugs and anti-illegal gambling. The cadets are everywhere, they are idealistic, they are healthy and most important as well is that they had not been corrupted and most possibly would refuse to be corrupted.
In fact, by harnessing them in the anti-drug campaign, we give them the opportunity to influence their peers against the use of drugs and their families against gambling.