Geraldine Roman supports ROTC
In a commencement address delivered before the ROTC graduates of the University of the Philippines on March 20, 1941, Brig. Gen. Vicente P. Lim, the first Filipino West Pointer, declared: “Our country has such an extensive shoreline in proportion to our revenues that we cannot sustain a standing army big enough to defend it. We must therefore educate every citizen to be prepared to fight at a moment’s notice. You will be the officers of this citizen army. I urge you, therefore, to enhance the military training that you have acquired. It is not only for your benefit but for the protection of your country.”
After World War II, the mandatory ROTC program remained part of college education. In 2002, however, the National Service Training Program Act was passed, giving college students three options in place of mandatory military training: Civil Welfare Training Services, Literacy Training Services, or ROTC. In effect, the latter became optional and voluntary, leading to a decline in participants in the program, and the resulting loss of potential leaders for our military force.
Last week, President Duterte approved the return of mandatory ROTC for students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12, making it part of the basic curriculum for a senior high school education in all public and private educational institutions. The President certified as “urgent” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s proposal to amend Republic Act No. 7077, to revive mandatory ROTC in our schools.
The rationale for bringing back ROTC as a mandatory course is to inculcate among the youth of the land love of country, leadership qualities, and character development. It aims at “enhancing consciousness in the ethics of service, patriotism and nationalism, respect for human rights, the importance of discipline, and an appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country.”
There are a few examples of the practical use of ROTC-trained elements. In the 1953 presidential contest that saw Ramon Magsaysay elected by a landslide, ROTC personnel were fielded to guard against poll irregularities. Natural disasters like severe flooding, and earthquakes, which take place in different parts of the country from time to time, highlight the need for an organized and trained citizenry particularly when there are no AFP units available to lend assistance in
Of course, there is no universal love for mandatory ROTC. The mere fact that the program is mandatory automatically attracts resistance from those concerned with personal liberties. And there is substantial opposition for various reasons. Some folks do not see how marching under the hot sun for hours can develop love of country. This is understandable. Marching under the hot sun does entail sacrifice involving personal comfort and convenience.
But marching in step with others helps instill a sense of discipline, a sense of teamwork—for the common good. It is this mindset that will contribute in the long term to national security and development. Wars have never been fought under the shade of trees with cool winds blowing around. Attending to natural disasters that cause so much damage and loss of lives is never an easy task. It requires a disciplined and dedicated citizenry, particularly among the youth. The idea of “white side walls” (crew-cut) for a hairstyle has never been attractive for many young people. More significant for its negative impact have been the past cases of abuse and corruption in the implementation of the ROTC program, owing to improper supervision and lack of attention to detail by irresponsible officials.
In building a large citizen army for his nation, Singapore’s founding father, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, once said:
“We had to reorient people’s minds to accept the need for a people’s army and overcome their traditional dislike for soldiering. We set up a national cadet corps and a national police cadet corps in all secondary schools so that parents would identify the army and the police with their sons and daughters. Only if we changed people’s thinking and attitudes could we raise an effective citizen army.” He went on to say that even if an enemy could subdue our armed forces, they would have a difficult time dealing with a population well-trained in the use of arms, fighting for their country.
Last week, support for the ROTC program came from a sector of society not often identified with the military. Rep. Geraldine Roman (first district, Bataan), the first transgender woman elected to Congress, expressed her strong support for the return of the ROTC. She said this would prepare them for the country’s defense and for typhoon and earthquake rescue operations. Roman, who won 62 percent of the vote in her recent election campaign, also commended President Duterte, Defense Secretary Lorenzana, and the AFP chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, for allowing the entry of members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community into the military organization. Roman is the daughter of former Batasan assemblyman and deputy finance minister Antonino Roman Jr., a respected colleague in the defunct ministry of finance during the martial law years.
Also speaking up in support of a revived ROTC is Commission on Election Chair Andres Bautista, who said that the program “could help inculcate the importance of exercising the constitutional duties and rights of suffrage, emphasizing that democracy is not a spectator sport.”
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