Patriotism and the ROTC | Inquirer Opinion

Patriotism and the ROTC

12:30 AM February 24, 2023

The ROTC program of the Philippines was junked without much resistance or regret because it was both unpopular and ineffective. The unpopularity was from scandals and controversies, including murder of an ROTC cadet who exposed anomalies of the program in his university. That it was ineffective was just as obvious because there was no use for it after students took it.

Now, there is much talk and effort to revive the ROTC as a mandatory program. From the point of view of patriotism and nationalism, It is not difficult to imagine why the ROTC can be helpful to a young citizen’s life. There are many other countries that have a military training program as a natural course for their young citizens. On the surface, there is enough justification – on the surface, that is.


Because we cannot compare ours with any of theirs. Because we cannot compare an unpopular program that was ineffective and has no proven value. Before we can compare ours with what other countries have, we have to talk about the same thing. Not apples versus oranges just because both are fruits.

The history of ROTC in the Philippines is a long one, dating all the way back to 100 years ago. Let me not belabor the pre-WWII history when the Philippines was a colony of the United States. Let me jump to the era when the Philippines gained independence and governed itself from July of 1946. From then to now, let me explain why ROTC has not much leg to stand on from the platform of functional military orientation, patriotism. or good citizenship.


My earliest memory as a young boy points to stories from my parents and the people around me regarding the communist rebellion from the late 1940s. From one name to another until the current NPA. In between, from the 1970s until very recently, there was a Muslim rebellion in Mindanao. In other words, for more than 70 years, there has been violent rebellion in the Philippines.

That is the background that should have elevated ROTC to be a most crucial and effective program – the patriotic defense of society against armed insurgents and terrorists.

I may not have all the critical relevant data about the ROTC except what I personally experienced once a week for two school years in college. That does not make me an expert compared to a few classmates who were enamored with ROTC then. They went beyond the mandated two years and extended their service all throughout college. At the end of it all, we lived our lives together in the same Philippine society – me without fighting the insurgency and they, surprisingly, without fighting as well.

Did the post-WWII history of the ROTC and of all the cadets who took the mandated program provide the benefit to a society that was plagued with armed insurrection for over 70 years? How many of the millions of Filipinos who took the ROTC enlisted in the military to fight communist rebels and Muslim secessionists? I still recall that the military did not even require a college degree in accepting new recruits – therefore no ROTC experience as well. I also know that many recruits to the Armed Forces of the Philippines did so to have employment despite the risks involved.

That is the functional purpose of a military training, rudimentary it may be under the old ROTC program. It simply did not bear fruit in the actual combat of the armed forces against rebels of all kinds.

If we are considering reviving a mandated ROTC program for senior high school students, let us try to understand the context in which it can become beneficial to students and country as well. With China and its 9-dash line directly affecting our security and the security of the rest of the world, there appears to be a possibility of armed conflict. Is this what the government expects young Filipinos to prepare for?

In a possible scenario of war, what side will we be on? Do we prepare against China, or do we prepare against the United States? This is an important question that has to be answered because the answer will make Filipinos accept the program more willingly or with great opposition.


Let us then go to the more intangible purpose – patriotism. That is a big word and an even bigger spirit. Ultimately, though, patriotism must express itself from word and spirit to action and behavior.

This requires all of us to focus on patriotism. Just on the basis that a new ROTC program can instill patriotism on young citizens, I will seriously rethink any personal objection of mine. Patriotism is such a needed virtue for all citizens. Any mandated ROTC program must then be evaluated for its power to develop patriotism.

It seems that patriotism is the central concern that we must first focus on more than an ROTC program simply as a tool to inculcate love of country. In a nation where poverty and corruption are the greatest threats, and maybe even the root cause for a continuing armed insurgency, there is truly an urgent need for patriotism. An authentic culture of patriotism will address both poverty and corruption.

However, young citizens who will be the audience of ROTC are not the present cause of poverty and corruption. If they were, there is a greater and urgent need for the immediate return of ROTC. But who really are the perpetrators of poverty and corruption today? It seems to me that, if only we can identify them, they should be the first to be mandated to take a deep course on patriotism?

Not condemning them but only accepting what many among the public have been saying all these years, politicians, government bureaucrats, and greedy businessmen have been seen as putting their personal interests ahead of the people’s. That is gravely unpatriotic. Can there be a hybrid ROTC program for them? If there will be, mandated ROTC for the Filipino youth will easily become more acceptable.

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