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Commentary

ROTC—when we’re being thrown ‘taho’?

/ 05:18 AM February 15, 2019

The logic behind the reinstitution of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is too simple, too Dutertian, that it’s not difficult to see why it’s popular and widely accepted. Aligned with this administration’s rhetoric of “kung wala kang masamang ginagawa, wala kang dapat ikatakot,” ROTC railroads the active instruction for students to be subservient to the state. And, instead of fearing authority, cadets would be trained to be implementers of the law and hold a gun. Or, in our case, the ancient M1 Garand rifle.

The ROTC’s primary aim is to prepare reserves—college students—for instances when the national defense needs more men and women in the armed forces.

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Minus the euphemisms, this means that the ROTC is government’s way to train foot soldiers in order to make up for what our military lacks, should we face the eventuality of war. Our government placed heavy funding and emphasis on the ROTC program in previous decades as part of a national defense program; these days, congressmen and the old guard harp on the ROTC chiefly as a means to “instill discipline.”

So, considering that President Duterte concedes to pretty much everything that China wants to do, is bringing back the ROTC even necessary?

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An inconvenienced Chinese national, Jiale Zhang, 23, threw her “taho” at PO1 William Cristobal, 39, on Saturday, causing a tidal wave of hate on social media. In the viral photo, Cristobal could be seen standing firmly, practicing maximum tolerance, while Zhang stood in front of him with both her hands on her hips.

National Capital Region Police Office Director Guillermo Eleazar was immediately ordered by Philippine National Police Director General  Oscar Albayalde to take the necessary steps to have Zhang booked and possibly deported. Cristobal received a medal on Monday morning, and the PNP enjoyed more press time than the senatorial debates. The police, often framed as the villains in this time of “Tokhang,” finally achieved some hint of heroism.

Online, many saw the incident as an opportunity to comment on the increasing presence of Chinese migrants in the Philippines. Others labeled the incident as a metaphor of our skewed relations with China. The comments have ranged from the racist and xenophobic to the profound. Cooped-up emotions about Mr. Duterte’s impotent stand on the West Philippine Sea and Chinese laborers “stealing” the jobs meant for Filipinos finally found a crack in the wall and burst through.

But one of the revelations offered to us by this incident is how many of us are still pretty much racists, clueless of the forces of globalization, and unaware of ourselves and of the fact that millions of our fellow Filipinos work abroad. Zhang, who has resided here for six years as a fashion design student, likely traveled here to go to our cheaper, higher-quality schools than those they have in mainland China.

And as a people too prone to cyberbully, very few asked questions about how the events unfolded. Could Zhang have misunderstood Cristobal’s instructions? Was there any way for her to understand the rule? Does the rule of no liquids at the train even make sense, or can commuters prove, instead, that the drinks they bring do not explode? Visiting Manila last week, I had to down a liter of water right in front of the police on duty at the Taft Avenue station, because “rules were rules.”

Were the moves made by Albayalde and Eleazar, for that matter, proportionate to the incident’s gravity? Did Zhang’s tantrums merit the attention of the institution’s highest officials? Even harder to weigh, what is Zhang’s taho-throwing compared to the murder of innocents perpetrated by the police? And why the lack of uproar and action toward the latter?

If the government would go to the trouble of reviving the ROTC “to instill discipline,” I suggest we intensify as well, or prefer instead, the teaching of literature and the humanities. The way we reacted to Zhang’s case shows us that what we lack is critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, critical thinking is precisely what the ROTC, or mandatory patriotism, hopes to erase. Should Zhang’s case continue to snowball and the ROTC brand of “disciplining” pushes through, then we’d be raising fascists in no time.

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DLS Pineda teaches at Father Saturnino Urios University, Butuan City. After finishing his undergraduate and master’s degrees in UP Diliman, he decided to reside in his father’s hometown in Agusan del Norte. Tweet the author @dlspineda.

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TAGS: Albayalde, Chinese, Chinese migrants, college students, cyberbully, Duterte, Eleazar, hate, Jiale Zhang, PO1 William Cristobal, Reserve Officers Training Corps, ROTC, social media, taho
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