THE DEPARTMENT of National Defense (DND) has drawn flak for its proposal to make Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) training mandatory to help boost the country’s military force.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a radio interview that although there were many reservists in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, mandatory ROTC would provide the right training to allow students to assist in times of emergency.

The National Defense Act of 1935, which made ROTC mandatory, had stated that students, from the age of 10 years, were required to undergo military training until age 21. It was repealed by Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001, which gave students other options aside from ROTC.

Remembering Mark Chua

The proposal’s critics hark back to the case of Mark Welson Chua, a former ROTC cadet, who was murdered in 2001 for exposing anomalies in the ROTC unit of the University.

In February 2001, the Varsitarian ran an investigative story on corruption in ROTC based on Chua’s revelations.

His complaint resulted in the sacking of UST-ROTC Commandant Demy Tejares and the UST Department of Military Science and Tactics staff (DMST).

A month later, Chua was found dead, with his body floating in the Pasig River. Immediate suspects were DMST officials, but the courts convicted a group of cadet officers, two of whom remain at large.

Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P., who was rector at that time, soon after led the University Belt Consortium, an informal group of universities in Manila, and called for the abolition of mandatory ROTC.

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In January 2002, mandatory ROTC was abolished by Republic Act No. 9163 or the NSTP Act.

ROTC was made optional and two programs were introduced: Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) and Literacy Training Service (LTS).

Raising public awareness

Father Lana, now rector and president of the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, said the death of Chua had raised public awareness of the corruption and irregularities going on in the ROTC program.

“[Corruption] was a known fact but nobody really cared about it at first,” Lana told the Varsitarian in an interview. “[The incident] raised concerns and critical voices of officials of universities and colleges against ROTC.”

Unless the government can assure students that the case of Chua won’t be repeated, the measure restoring mandatory ROTC will not gather steam, he said.

Lana suggested instead that the number of students enrolling into ROTC and NSTP be balanced.

“[Both programs] should serve the purpose for which they were established,” he said.

Freedom to choose

Jose Origenes, National Service Training Program (NSTP) moderator, did not criticize the DND’s proposal but said it would deprive students of their right to choose which service they would like to perform—military, civic, or literary.

“The NSTP law has given [students] the freedom to choose which component they are most comfortable with and [the program] has also contributed much to the war against poverty and lack of education,” he said.

Origenes added that over the years, the NSTP law had produced patriotic and responsible citizens.

If mandatory ROTC is revived, the LTS and the CWTS of the NSTP program will be dissolved, leaving students with no option but to take up ROTC.

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Justifying mandatory ROTC

Jose Faustino, UST-ROTC commandant, agreed with the DND, saying the proposal would be beneficial to the country.

“The objective [of ROTC] is to instill discipline and prepare individuals not necessarily for military service, but to be future leaders of the country,” Faustino said.

Students are trained to become responsible citizens, and the basic tenets of discipline are embedded in ROTC, he added.

Faustino also said ROTC had given students an edge in the job market.

UST-ROTC Administration Officer Elenita Altamirano attested to this, claiming that alumni with ROTC training as indicated in their transcripts had a better chance of being employed.

In an interview with the Varsitarian, DND Deputy Chief of Staff for Reservists and Retiree Affairs Oscar Brito said that if mandatory ROTC training would be revived, national defense would be bolstered despite lack of military equipment.

“We can sleep soundly overnight because there will be someone who can defend our country since our citizens are well-trained,” Brito said.

Brito lamented that the quality of ROTC has significantly deteriorated.

“During our time, ROTC training lasted for two years, which is a big difference compared to one year of training now,” he said, adding that there is a lack of qualified civilians to facilitate ROTC training. Jelina Anne S. Bunagan and A. A. T. Santiago

5 COMMENTS

  1. yes i agree cause the youth for today is not good special boys its better to have an rotc even just a little they know how to give respect …

  2. I’m not sure whether this statement still came from Mr. Origenes, or is it your paper’s stand, or your university’s: “If mandatory ROTC is revived, the LTS and the CWTS of the NSTP program will be dissolved, leaving students with no option but to take up ROTC.” Why would you dissolve CWTS just because ROTC becomes mandatory? It will be mandatory only for able-bodied male students, and optional for females. Besides, it doesn’t abolish the NSTP law, which did make CWTS the other option in the NSTP. That has to be made clear so that readers are able to make the right decision or stand.

  3. I was an ROTC cadet on the one year program. The service of our school was the Airforce. For me an ROTC program that does not prepare you for actual military service is useless. Even if it is mandatory, and all you reserve force that knows is harap-harapan and marching drills these guys are just wasting all of our time. The context I am getting from here is draft and conscription during the Vietnam War. If you have a military force whose mentality is just,”let’s get this over with!, or can i go home now?”, then you’ll have a force that’s already demoralized before it enters combat. During my tenure as a cadet NCO, my CO barely had any field skills. He just knew how shout, and handle a rifle. He did not know how to navigate without a GPS or conduct lashing. He had to have a copy of morse code during wigwag signalling drills. He had a great body though, he can push-ups very satisfactory but he would not know where north is if he wad droped in a jungle. This a product of an ROTC program that focus on quantity rather than quality. I would suggest that rather than making ROTC a mandatory thing, it would be voluntary with a firm selection process and a 4 year training program that involves actuall skills aside from physical activity. On the 4th year, I would suggest a one week hands on experience on deployment. In the airforce case, the guage of success is at least for the cadets to know how to operate a badic air craft. Now, where do we get planes? It is possible to utilize CWTS to conduct labor activities such as manufacturing equipment or supplied to constuction companies to generate salaries that would be donated to purchase said equipment. It is important to know that numerical superiority might be a pre-requisite to sustain a standing armed force but in order to WIN a conflict one must know when, where, and how to strike as well as the means to exucute that strike. Mabuhay ang NSTP at ROTC

  4. Truly agree with Sigbin.

    I graduated from UST decades ago and was there as a student for 8 years. From my recollection, UST military training in high school and college was a haven for bullies. This was where officers get power over others just by being officers and use it for their own agenda. It was sad to see firsthand. I am positive that it was the same in other schools at the time.

    i believe that a Catholic university like UST may produce good soldiers by teaching ethics and morality on top of excellent academic education. Making ROTC mandatory is steps backwards. I believe that Mark Chua’s death saved a lot of students from harm and corruption. Reading about Chua story was a sad time for me as I had regarded my beloved Alma Mater so highly. For its administration to make ROTC mandatory again would be an insult to the death of a brave young man who should be a role model for this universities administrators.

    A good soldier has values, a good heart, good frame of mind, and a pure soul. He has a healthy body and mind. Marching drills and holding rifles can be learned even by primates. ROTC is not the answer.

    I hope by this time the grandstand has been named after him. He deserves more recognition than those figures on top of the Main Building.

  5. Truly agree with Sigbin.

    I graduated from UST decades ago and was there as a student for 8 years. From my recollection, UST military training in high school and college was a haven for bullies. This was where officers get power over others just by being officers and use it for their own agenda. It was sad to see firsthand. I am positive that it was the same in other schools at the time.

    i believe that a Catholic university like UST may produce good soldiers by teaching ethics and morality on top of excellent academic education. Making ROTC mandatory is steps backwards. I believe that Mark Chua’s death saved a lot of students from harm and corruption. Reading about Chua story was a sad time for me as I had regarded my beloved Alma Mater so highly. For its administration to make ROTC mandatory again would be an insult to the death of a brave young man who should be a role model for this universities administrators.

    A good soldier has values, a good heart, good frame of mind, and a pure soul. He has a healthy body and mind. Marching drills and holding rifles can be learned even by primates. ROTC is not the answer.

    I hope by this time the grandstand has been named after him. He deserves more recognition than those figures on top of the Main Building.

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