Men of the ROTC

/ 12:29 AM February 27, 2017

First, a few notes on Edsa.

Unlike in previous years, the celebrations commemorating Edsa 31 were low key and modest. There were no helicopter drops of flowers and confetti. The main actors in the drama that unfolded 31 years ago were absent (although they attended an earlier program inside Camp Aguinaldo), and the traditional “salubong” was also scrapped.


In a personal way, Feb. 25 remains a special day for the family. In 1960, our first child Miguel, was born on Feb. 25 at the Delgado Clinic in Quezon City. He is now a doctor practicing in the United States, and I am certain he is tickled pink to know that his birthday is a national holiday here.

There is something mystical about birth dates in our family. My father Modesto Farolan, was born on June 12, Philippine Independence Day; I was born on Aug. 31, Malaysia’s National Day, while our only daughter Carmela was born on Aug. 17, Indonesia’s Merdeka Day. Miguel’s birthday coincides with another milestone in the history of our nation. For three generations, at least one member of the family has been in one way, identified with the birth of freedom in an Asean country.


In the early days, the fight for freedom and independence was basically a struggle against colonial powers. We fought the Spaniards and, later, the Americans, in the same manner that the Indonesians took up arms against the Dutch, and the Malays struggled against the British. In a way, it was all so simple. One merely had to go by the color of the skin.

The February 1986 Edsa Revolution was more complicated and in many ways more difficult and bitter because it pitted Filipinos against Filipinos, at times friends, relatives and classmates against each other. And like in any civil conflict, the wounds take much longer to heal, the objectives much longer to attain.

The American Civil War is a case in point. The war was fought with the objective of, among other things, abolishing the scourge of slavery. It pitted Union soldiers in blue against Confederates in grey. Classmates at West Point found themselves fighting each other in fierce battles that resulted in some of the greatest number of casualties for any known conflict. It was the bloodiest war in US history, with almost every American family experiencing losses.

Although the war was won by Union forces, victory did not automatically bestow on the Negroes all the rights and privileges of a free and emancipated citizen. It took the American people another 100 years to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In practical terms, it gave the African American the right to be served in facilities open to the public. A year later the Voting Rights Act was passed prohibiting racial discrimination in the voting place.

The same can be said about the Edsa Revolution. Thirty or so years is too short a time to make conclusions about the significance of Edsa. There will be further baptisms of fire that will test our people’s patience and perseverance, and most of all our spirit of reconciliation in bringing about a better and more prosperous nation.

In 1935, the Commonwealth government came up with the National Defense Act, calling for the establishment of a citizens’ army composed of a corps of regular military personnel. They would be responsible for training young men and women so as to form a large reservoir of manpower that could be mobilized in the event of an emergency. As a result, the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Program came into being; and when World War II broke out in December 1941, many of the young men who served as junior officers in Bataan and Corregidor were products of the ROTC. They served with great distinction on the battlefields, and later in the guerrilla war that followed the formal surrender of Usaffe (US Armed Forces in the Far East) units in the country.

As mentioned in an earlier column, mandatory ROTC was abolished in 2002, when the National Service Training Program was introduced, making ROTC optional. However, recently, President Duterte approved the return of mandatory ROTC for students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12.


To highlight the importance and significance of ROTC training in terms of its contributions to national security and development, let me mention just a few of the more prominent products of the program.

Gen. Alfredo M. Santos was an engineer-turned-soldier. He graduated from the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) with a degree in civil engineering. His role as corps commander of the MIT ROTC contingent brought him to a military career that led to his appointment as AFP chief of staff.

Gen. Rigoberto J. Atienza was a civil engineering graduate of the University of the Philippines. The 51st Engineering Brigade headquarters in Libis, Quezon City, is named “Camp General Rigoberto J. Atienza” in his honor. Atienza served as AFP chief of staff.

Gen. Romeo Espino graduated from UP Los Baños with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. He would serve as AFP chief of staff from January 1972 to August 1981, a tour of duty of almost 10 years, making him the longest-serving AFP chief of staff.

Gen. Fabian Ver would be one of the most powerful to ever hold the post of chief of staff. His sphere of influence would cover every facet of government operations because of his concurrent position as director general of the National Intelligence and Security Authority.

Maj. Gen. Ismael Lapuz finished his college education at the University of the Philippines, with a degree in mechanical engineering. It was during his stint as intelligence chief of the Philippine Army that the backbone of the Communist Party of the Philippines was broken with the capture of most of its leaders in a stunning raid conducted by MIS agents in Manila.

Maj. Gen. Rafael Zagala was the author of the “Kamagong” concept of using citizen army draftees alongside regulars who composed the cadre of army combat units.

Other army officers who came up through the ROTC program were Generals Patricio Monzon, Silvino de Goma, Santos Garcia, Ruben Maglaya, and Jose Magno.

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