Should we re­vive ROTC?

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

BE­FORE I’d say my stand on the pro­posed revival of the Re­served Of­fi­cers Train­ing Course (ROTC), just a few rec­ol­lec­tions of my own ex­pe­ri­ence. We would re­port to the camp or school grounds as early as 12:30 PM. Be­fore that, we would be clean­ing our boots, pol­ish­ing the brass buckle, and starch­ing be­fore iron­ing our fa­tigue uni­form. At­ten­dance check­ing starts at ex­actly 12:30. Un­der the heat the sun, hun­dreds of male col­lege stu­dents would be in­spected as to how they wear the uni­form. One no­table part of the in­spec­tion was the in­spec­tion of the white hand­ker­chief. Mind you, there is also an of­fi­cially ap­proved way of fold­ing such a priceless piece of cloth.

Past 1:00 PM the most im­por­tant part of the Satur­day for­ma­tion would be­gin: “drills and march­ing.” The syn­chro­niza­tion of the legs as well as the for­ward­ing of the feet is im­por­tant. Many of us got pun­ished, and were asked to ex­e­cute push-ups just be­cause we did not im­me­di­ately learn how to march. Part and par­cel of the “for­ma­tion ac­tiv­i­ties” was to mem­o­rize the of­fi­cers’ com­mands in Ta­ga­log. The words “pakanan”, “pakaliwa”, and “pa­su­long” were quite for­eign for non­ta­ga­log speak­ers. There was no time to ask about what they meant. In mil­i­tary train­ing just “obey be­fore you com­plain.”

When days would get closer to the tac­ti­cal in­spec­tion, the for­ma­tion would start get­ting longer. Ses­sions on sig­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, compass and map read­ing would be taught. We were asked to mem­o­rize the parts of the M16 and even dis­man­tle one. Some of my class­mates were for­tu­nate to also know the parts of the hand grenade.

Out of re­spect for my of­fi­cers, I will not tell you the phys­i­cal pun­ish­ments that we went through. Quite for­tu­nate for them that dur­ing that time “child abuse” (some of us took ROTC at the age of 16 and 17 as there was no Se­nior High then) was not an in-thing. But re­ally, one had to ex­ert some ef­fort in or­der to sur­vive the

train­ing. Part of the train­ing was de­vel­op­ing the abil­ity to con­ceal. Ques­tions were not also that much en­ter­tained. Of­fi­cers were not as rea­son­able as class­room teach­ers. Obe­di­ence in the “mil­i­tary par­lance” means swal­low­ing or­ders: hook, line, and sinker.

Now that there is a pend­ing pro­posal to re­vive ROTC, I keep on ask­ing my­self whether I should sup­port it or not. I un­der­stand that I be­long to a gen­er­a­tion that was ne­ces­si­tated by cir­cum­stances to ap­pre­ci­ate mil­i­tary train­ing. How­ever, it is not fair for the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion to be forced to go through some­thing, ROTC for that mat­ter, just be­cause pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions were made to do so.

If ROTC should be re­vived, it must be on the ba­sis of strong and rea­son­able grounds. The rea­son for its revival is un­clear, for me, up to this point. For ex­am­ple, a friend, who him­self is a re­servist, told me that we need to in­crease our re­served forces be­cause of the es­ca­lat­ing ten­sion with China. I counter-ar­gued though that such is not a con­vinc­ing rea­son – on two counts.

One, we will never win against any other pow­er­ful coun­try (un­less of course if we will be in­vad­ing some dwin­dling tribes in Africa). Ap­par­ently, the gov­ern­ment has been tak­ing a “diplo­matic ap­proach” to the is­sue. Even Duterte is try­ing his best to “make friends” with China. The in­sis­tence to re­vive ROTC us­ing “China’s ag­gres­sion” as an ar­gu­ment is for me, an ap­par­ent case of ask­ing the right hand to do some­thing and mak­ing sure that the left hand does not know what it is.

Sec­ond, as­sum­ing that, still, prepa­ra­tion for war is indispensa­ble, let me now use my ex­pe­ri­ence as a counter-ar­gu­ment. I don’t think that I am pre­pared for any war. Why? I don’t think that march­ing, starch­ing my uni­form, and pol­ish­ing my boots were the best prepa­ra­tions for com­bat. If we are to re­vive ROTC there­fore keep­ing in mind the need to strengthen mil­i­tary re­serve, then it must be well crafted in or­der to en­sure that it will not be a waste of two years for our stu­dents.

While there might be merit in the revival of ROTC, it must not be rushed. The pro­gram must be re­viewed thor­oughly. The academe should be con­sulted. Ex­perts in the field of Civil­ian-mil­i­tary Re­la­tions should be con­sulted. We should be as­sured that the pro­gram wouldn’t be an­other venue for more cor­rup­tions. It is also im­por­tant to ad­dress other se­ri­ous prob­lems, which in­evitably will arise. Among others is the is­sue of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment most es­pe­cially that the plan is to im­ple­ment ROTC in Se­nior High School.*

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