The ROTC program and a citizen army (2)By Ramon Farolan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
According to a Unesco study, 57 million children lack classroom access. Here are the countries with the most children out of school:
This piece of information should be of interest to Education Secretary Armin Luistro and his department. It is published in the July 1 issue of Time Magazine under the heading “Where children can’t get an education.”
Note that we are the only Asean member on the top 5 list of out-of-school children. We are also the only Catholic country in this top 5 ranking. Muslim and Buddhist countries like Indonesia and Thailand, also Asean members, do not appear to have a similar problem. Some of the best and most expensive private schools in the country are run by Church organizations. Perhaps, the Church and the government should consider diverting more of available resources to help in the education of the poorer sectors of our society.
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In December 1935, Commonwealth Act No. 1, better known as the National Defense Act, mandated the creation of a citizen army composed of a small regular force and a larger reserve component. All able-bodied male students enrolled in Philippine colleges and universities were required to undergo two years of basic military instruction under a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program.
The University of the Philippines cadet corps actually pioneered the ROTC program in the Philippines in 1912 when Philippine Constabulary officers started providing military instructions at the UP. But even earlier than the UP ROTC was a program organized at the University of Santo Tomas in 1762 by its chancellor, Fr. Domingo Collantes. A battalion of young students were given military training to help fight invading English troops.
One of the great difficulties in the organization of the Philippine Army, as provided for by the National Defense Act, was the creation of a satisfactory officer corps. The Philippine Constabulary had good officers but their training lay in law enforcement rather than in military tactics and strategy. The problem was to train junior officers to command the reserve units that were being formed. Senior ROTC units were established to provide the junior reserve officers who would head this large component of our defense establishment.
By 1941, there were 33 colleges and universities throughout the country maintaining ROTC units. World War II saw ROTC products in action for the first time. Cadets from Metro Manila units took part in the defense of Bataan. In the Visayas, 45 percent of the 75th Infantry Regiment of the
USAFFE were ROTC cadets of Silliman University. Graduates of the Philippine Military Academy and various ROTC units formed the Hunters ROTC guerrillas that continued the fight after the surrender of Bataan and Corregidor.
In 1967, President Ferdinand Marcos issued Executive Order No. 59, making ROTC a mandatory course in all colleges and universities with an enrollment of at least 250 male students. A noteworthy development during this period was a program called “Rainbow Rangers-Sunday soldiers.” It provided an alternative to what was basically a ceremony-centered ROTC training program. It exposed the cadets to small unit tactics, unconventional warfare and home defense techniques.
The ROTC crisis of 2001 marked a turning point in the post-martial law history of the institution.
In March, UST cadet Sgt. Major Mark Chua was abducted and brutally murdered allegedly by members of the UST ROTC training staff following a corruption exposé he made. A Manila Regional Trial Court handed the death penalty to a fellow cadet three years later. The death of Chua was the catalyst for ROTC reforms.
Republic Act No. 9163, the National Service Training Program (NSTP), was the result of the clamor for change.
In the words of the law, the NSTP is a program “aimed at enhancing civic consciousness and defense preparedness in the youth by developing the ethics of services and patriotism while undergoing training in any of its three program components.” These components are: (1) the Reserve Officer Training Corps which provides military training to tertiary level students; (2) the Literacy Training Service which is designed to train students to become teachers of literacy and numeracy skills to schoolchildren; and (3) the Civic Welfare Training Service which refers to activities contributory to the general welfare and the betterment of life for members of the community.
Incidentally, while the law was approved by President Gloria Arroyo in January 2002, its implementing rules and regulations were adopted and issued only in November 2009, more than seven years after passage of the law.
The most significant change from the old ROTC format was to make ROTC optional and voluntary.
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Today the nation faces external threats that have to be addressed in a pragmatic manner considering the limited resources available for AFP modernization and equipment upgrades. Next month we shall be receiving another refurbished navy vessel, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz. President Aquino, in his remarks during the Philippine Air Force anniversary rites at Clark last week, promised that before he steps down, the Air Force shall have fighter jets in its inventory.
What is needed to support the Armed Forces is a citizen army of well-trained reserves that can make life difficult for any invader. Just as the threat of war with Japan served as an impetus for the build-up of our Armed Forces before World War II, let us use the threats that come from bullies in the neighborhood to prepare our youth for the defense of the homeland. It is time to restore the mandatory two-year basic ROTC military training program that existed in the past. Whatever mistakes or abuses were committed then should not be allowed to happen again.
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My thanks to the following AFP officers who provided me with their comments and thoughts on the citizen army concept: Brig. Gen. Rolando Jungco, commander, AFP Civil Relations Service (CRS); Col. Oscar Brito of OJ9; Lt. Col. Rolando Rodil; and Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, both of the AFP CRS.
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