The decreasing number of students that enroll in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program has prompted renewed efforts to once again make it mandatory. House Bill 309, seeking to repeal Republic Act 9163 (NSTP Act of 2001), has been filed before the House Committee on National Defense by Rep. Eduardo Gullas of Cebu -- a move hailed by no less than Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro.
What Teodoro fails to recognize is the fact that we students are expressing our opposition to the ROTC by preferring to enroll in its alternatives, such as the Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) under the National Service Training Program (NSTP). Gullas filed a bill without even consulting a key stakeholder in the issue, which is us, the students.
Although not yet perfect -- which is understandable considering that it has been institutionalized less than a decade ago -- the CWTS has taught us more and has made us more productive citizens than we possibly could ever have been, had we chosen the ROTC program instead. We prefer to teach poor children or build houses for the homeless than do push-ups and march around campus. The CWTS has also exposed us to the harsh realities and persistent problems that plague our fellow Filipinos: massive poverty, inaccessible education, social injustice.
We ask, what can we learn from the ROTC? It only teaches us the use of violence against our classmates. It claims to instill “discipline,” but that discipline merely stems from fear. It makes students docile, subservient, even uncritical -- consider the ROTC dogma, “Obey first before you complain.” We also have confirmed reports that the ROTC program is being used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to recruit students to its Student Intelligence Network, which spies on the members and activities of progressive and nationalist groups.
The government, hell-bent on requiring us to enroll in the ROTC and forcing us to undergo public humiliation, excessive physical punishment and other characteristics that have defined the ROTC program, seems to have forgotten that there was once a Mark Chua who died mercilessly at the hands of his officers for exposing widespread corruption in his university’s ROTC program. We do not want another Mark Chua.
Teodoro claims that the decreasing number of reserve officers in the country is cause for alarm, saying it has “serious ramifications in assuring our national security and stability.” But we believe otherwise. We do not want to become “cannon fodders” in the unjust wars being waged by our government against the people. We do not want to become part of an establishment that is being used by the government to spy on organizations, the members of which are our classmates and friends. We do not want to be reserve officers of a military that is being used to claim the lives of activists and civilians whose only crime is to fight for their rights.
If the government is going to push through with the aforementioned proposal, we students pledge to oppose it with the same, if not greater force, than that used in 2001 to abolish the ROTC.
VENCER CRISOSTOMO, national chair, League of Filipino Students (via email)