PURSUANT to Republic Act No. 9163, otherwise known as the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001, the University held its first NSTP training day last June 30. The law was enacted by Congress to quell the overwhelming clamor for the abolition of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.

The new law is supposed to provide alternatives to college students to comply with their duty in rendering service to the state other than through the old ROTC program.

Under Section 4 of the NSTP Law, the ROTC program is made optional and voluntary. It also provides for three service components. Aside from the ROTC, there are Literacy Training Service and the Civic Welfare Training Service. At present, only the ROTC component has been put into effect by UST .

However, tension and anxiety filled the first NSTP training day when soldiers and policemen came—armed with M16 rifles.

Deployment of armed men was allegedly necessitated by reports of sabotage by leftist groups of the training day.

It may be recalled that last year some leftist groups disrupted the first ROTC training day and urged cadets to walk out of the training. The cadets did so in protest of the murder of Mark Chua, the UST Engineering student who exposed anomalies in the ROTC. Apparently, the DMST learned from last year’s experience. But what it did was an overkill.

M16 rifles against the loud and defiant voices of liberal youths! A fair and even match, if we are to infer from the contingency action taken by DMST.

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And should disorder have broken out that Sunday morning, what were they to do? Open fire at the protesters and risk injuring innocent cadets, composed of young men AND women, and their parents?

The use of these M16 rifles may be said to be an extreme option. However, why should one be provided with an option too costly to consider, much less take?

Leftist groups are composed mostly of the youth, who are referred to by the NSTP law as “the most valuable source of the nation” (paragraph 3, section 2) and they should be accorded utmost tolerance by armed agencies of the government.

In addition, the administration should look into the propriety of brandishing high-caliber firearms within a Catholic academic institution like UST.

Meanwhile, the UST Security Force employed a more sober approach to the problem by deploying additional security guard fitted ONLY with nightsticks.

Fortunately, no mass protest occurred, but the trauma brought by the scene of armed men hovering around the ranks of young college students has left a deep scar in the confidence of worried parents.

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