DIFFERENT sectors have been clamoring for the abolition of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) since the murder of Mark Welson Chua, the UST Engineering student who exposed the alleged rampant corruption in the University’s program.

Various student groups have called the ROTC corrupt, irrelevant, oppressive, and senseless. They believe that students would be more productive if they would engage in community service programs.

Last July, Sen. Francisco Pangilinan filed Senate Bill No. 1528, a proposal for students to be involved in civic action and community development work, instead of undergoing military training.

The proposal, similar to the other bills filed by other congressmen, favors the amendment of the National Defense Act of 1935, the law that created the ROTC program, and Republic Act 7077, the National Defense Act of 1991 which amends the ROTC law.

However, despite actions taken by the country’s legislators, there are still opposing stands on the issue to make ROTC optional or to totally scrap it from the curriculum.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr.: The abolition of the ROTC was one of my platforms in the 1995 senatorial elections, where I was dislodged from the list of winners (because of) dagdag/bawas. Hence, I could not follow through with an appropriate bill during the 10th Congress.

I believe that ROTC should only be for those who want to follow a military career after college. Other college students should probably devote their time to better things like civic action.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez: Retain ROTC. Pero pakinggan nating mabuti ‘yung clamor. Ano ba talaga ang gusto nila? They want military training to be dissolved, by all means dissolve military training. But (mayroon silang) option na i-retain (‘yung) Civic Welfare Service (CWS) or Law Enforcement Service (LES), or train them on disaster preparedness.

Sa military nga mayroong doctor, nurse, priest, engineer. (‘Yung) iba, nagsasabi sila na ‘di kailangan sa kurso nila ang (military) training. Pero sa bandang huli, hindi nila alam, kailangan pala. Katulad ko, akala ko noon ganoon, pero later I realized na may relevance pala.

Marami pa ring redeeming values ang ROTC tulad ng disiplina, koordinasyon, saka ‘yung mga security concerns (internal and external). Pagkatapos, maraming bagay na puwede nating hubugin sa ROTC para maging relevant tulad ng (integration of) computer literacy, environmental protection and awareness, at medical mission. Lahat ito pagsisilbi sa bayan.

Presidential Spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao: It’s (the issue) still in the level of the Department of National Defense (DND). They are the ones evaluating it (ROTC abolition). The DND has specific proposals of providing options – either strict military training or a civic program. So if they don’t like military (training), they have an option to do community work. The problem is, there is a law that should be amended although there may be some other ways, if not necessarily amending the law.

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I suggest reforms. Do a reform, or provide an option. If it’s against your religion or your personality, that you hate guns or you don’t like any military training, you can be provided an option – civic work.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Isabel de Leon: I’m not really for the abolition of the ROTC, because it’s a good civic orientation for our young people. I would prefer a reform in the present set-up or system.

The problem that I see is the commandants, those who conduct the training, the people on top (of the ROTC program). So if problems arise these people should be removed and replaced.

The government is doing its best to live by example. If there’s a rotten egg on top, that person should be removed. ROTC is something that cannot be abolished without Congress approving it. It has to undergo a lot of processes and it’s going to be a long process. To abolish ROTC at this time is really impossible.

Mary Rose “Rosebud” Ong: Of course, I want (ROTC to be) compulsory because this is the only way an individual can serve his country. That is the least they can do for the country. It’s just when you go to school and I guess every country has that.

(It so happens) that the system here is bad.

They have to start from the young people because the young people are idealistic. When you put them in the real world they get culture shocked with all the corruption. (And) I think women should not undergo ROTC. They should be given a different program.

ABS-CBN Senior Reporter Tony Velasquez: I feel it (ROTC program) should be replaced by a different kind of training program. In a way, ROTC should be scrapped and be replaced by a training course that is more relevant to our present situation. I (attended) ROTC in college and it taught me (nothing) useful like how to handle weapons or how to practice hand-to-hand combat. I think if we have specific courses that will teach the students something like that, it would greatly help us. They really have to make it more suited for the current conditions.

Prof. Gerardo Agulto, Jr., MBA Program Director, College of Business Administration UP – Diliman: (Do) the students have a choice when (they) don’t know (exactly) what (they) are taking in the ROTC? You get nothing out of ROTC.

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They (the authorities) are avoiding the issue by saying “Hey, don’t make it required. Make it optional.” The government’s responsibility is to determine what are being offered. Don’t make the students the unknowing victims.

I’m for total abolition. Don’t create (anymore) opportunities for mischief and corruption.

Based on my personal experience, I don’t believe it was worth it (reforming the ROTC). I think it was a waste of resources. I’m confident that ROTC has gotten worse.

Tinamaan ang UST. Namatayan pa ng bata. Marami pang kinukulekta. I’m sure sa lahat ng eskuwelahan kumukulekta ‘yan. I know for a fact na nabibili ang ROTC na ‘yan.

I’m disappointed that many of our government officials are effectively side-tracking the issue.

Dr. Armando de Jesus, dean UST Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB): The ROTC is like a big institution and (it can be) compared to the dinosaurs. The reason why they (dinosaurs) got extinct was because they were not able to adjust to the changing environment. So, because they were not able to adapt, to change, they died.

I (can) compare ROTC to something like that. It’s an institution that has become so big, so huge it seems not to be able to change, in spite of the fact that things around the situation have changed. If ROTC doesn’t change, it’s going to die, like the dinosaurs.

The law was passed in 1935, and then at that time, there was a good reason for it. But it is year 2001. The situation between 1935 and the situation now have changed. So we have to review ROTC in the context of the present situation. Before, the ROTC law was passed in the context of a war situation. Our young people (are trained), in case there is a need to call upon them.

Today, I don’t think the wars between nations are as possible as they were then. The reason for ROTC then, to my mind, no longer exists. I’m not saying that there is no value in ROTC because you might say, there are unintended advantages. Like the value of discipline. Now the question is, does ROTC still instill discipline, the value of nationalism, and love of country? I think there are other, perhaps more productive ways, of instilling the same values. So I made a distinction between the value that is inherent in the institution itself. We must preserve things that are of value. I don’t know if ROTC has a monopoly (of these values). It doesn’t mean ROTC equals discipline. That’s not the equation.

There are many ways of forming those values in our young people. ROTC could be one, but there are many more. There are possibilities and options. For me, EDSA II is one big lesson in nationalism, (but it is) not related to ROTC at all. In other words, there are enough learning experiences that can be harnessed and put up new structures for the benefit of the same values. I don’t mind if ROTC is abolished. But they should put good alternatives. The important thing really is to put new structures, new options, and new alternatives for young people to engage in, like activities that are really worthwhile.

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Philippine Air Force Sgt. Francisco Anduajar: Hindi ako payag diyan (abolition), hindi pu-puwede iyon. Ipagpatuloy ang ROTC para makapag-bigay ito ng kaunting disiplina sa ating kabataan lalo pa ngayon, na ang mga tao sa Pilipinas ay walang disiplina. Sa pamamagitan ng ROTC, mabibigyan sila ng kaunting disiplina. Matututo rin sila ng implementation of proper cooperation and spirit decorum among Filipino people.

Wala namang problema ang ROTC itself, ang problema ay implementation at sa sistema. Dapat baguhin ang ibang sistema sa patakaran ng ROTC sa mga universities.

Fr. Lucio Gutierrez, O.P., regent UST AB: I find ROTC a waste of time. I have been here in the Philippines for 34 years and I have not seen anything good in the ROTC. The students learn nothing. They learn nothing about military defense. Beyond the complete corruption, the whole system do not build a man. It does not prepare them to become soldiers of the future. They are useless. The students do not know how to handle gun, they do not even know the demographics of the country.

With the change in the modern world, students have to be exposed through community services. Community service, meaning, serving the nation in times of calamity. It has to be voluntary service, (non-governmental organizations) NGOs. Its much more humanizing, it is more for the service of man.

It is terrible that the ROTC is making a military man. Why should we really teach them how to kill in the future? How to fight? They are instilling in the students’ minds the idea that there are enemies. We have to instill in university students the sense of universal values that we are for unity within and beyond our nation. If there is something serious (about the ROTC abolition), we better have to reach an agreement, consensus, discussion, international conventions, and the like.

I know there are some who feel that they instill discipline. But ROTC is alien to human vocation. With Reyann V. Kong

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