‘Second-class officers’ in the Philippine military
This is a reaction to Ramon J. Farolan’s column titled “The ROTC program and a citizen army” (Opinion, 6/17/13).
Farolan bewails the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the young to join the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program as an entry point into the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, thus eroding the leadership base of the military establishment, which is essential in the event of mobilization.
A reason he did not mention is the fact that an ROTC graduate who enters the military today becomes a second-class citizen in his own country’s Armed Forces. While 75 percent of the AFP officer corps are non-Philippine Military Academy graduates, all the instruments of national security in the country are controlled by PMAers, oftentimes from a single class. Thus, there is monopoly of power which by itself is a security problem.
Gone are the days when there existed professional competition, if not check and balance, among officers of different sources of commission. Because the playing field was even, there was friendly competition and we saw the rise of non-PMA graduates to high positions in the national security apparatus of the country. This will not happen again. Why?
If we take two college graduates, one from the PMA and the other from a local university, the PMA graduate is commissioned immediately as a regular officer, whereas the other will have to undergo military training for a period of one to two years before he is commissioned. Chances are, they were of the same age when they graduated from college and so they will retire at the same time at age 56. In other words, the PMA graduate would already be one or two years ahead of the university graduate in the seniority roster. Thus, under normal circumstances, the ROTC graduate will always be junior to the PMAer until both retire. This explains why an ROTC graduate will never rise to a high position under the present system, and it could be one reason why the military profession is not looked upon favorably by college graduates.
Should the retirement law be amended so that retirement is based on years of commissioned service rather than age, then there is a chance that the non-PMAer will reach the top position. This will give an incentive to bright university graduates to join the military and make it a career as they will know that they have a chance to reach the top.
There is another remedy, if we aspire to achieve a broader military leadership base: Let’s pass a law creating the Philippine Air Force Academy. Senators Edgardo Angara and Panfilo Lacson conducted a public hearing for this purpose in the last Congress. To a man, the whole hierarchy of the defense establishment was cool to the idea.
With all those sophisticated weapons systems that are being procured for the modernization of the AFP, we need the best of our people to be trained in a specialized way so they can manage and employ these costly, state-of-the-art weapons effectively.
—ANTONIO E. SOTELO,
retired lieutenant general, AFP,
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