Abellanosa: Should we revive ROTC?

Fringes and frontiers

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 p.m. 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 p.m., 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 non-Tagalog 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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