by Francis N. Tolentino
While opinions vary on the issue of the re-inclusion of mandatory Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in the tertiary education curriculum of colleges and universities in the Philippines, it would also be fit perhaps to look deeper into and appreciate the value of instilling discipline and patriotism through military training among young Filipinos.
For after all, it is upon their hands that we will pass on the steering wheel of this nation.
ROTC was made optional and voluntary in 2002 with the enactment of the National Service Training Program, which introduced Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) and Literacy Training Service (LTS) as alternatives for ROTC.
Since then, a steady decline in the enrollment in ROTC became very evident, and so was the obvious deterioration of young Filipinos’ interest in military service.
As national peace and order continues to be challenged from several corners, the ROTC might perhaps be a viable preemptive tool.
Effective implementation of ROTC is the key to eliminating resistance to the program’s revival. Violation of students’ rights, bullying, and corruption, among others, can be prevented if the government, through higher education institutions, will provide clear cut policies and effectual modules for teaching the military training program.
If guidelines are in place, and limitations and accountabilities are set, then there can be no reason for students to fear enrolling themselves in ROTC.
Students, as well as their parents, only need to understand and be assured that the discipline and patriotism being instilled through ROTC project beyond their lives as college students and are building blocks upon which the new breed of Filipino leaders are molded and honed.
According to Article II, Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution: “The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people. The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal, military or civil service.”
How can we be able to harness this provision of the Constitution in times of crises when ROTC is only optional under the National Service Training Program?
I have personally witnessed how the Reserved Officers Training Corps is being given highest value in the United States. While studying at the Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana, I was able to observe ROTC cadets attend school every day wearing their uniforms as US Marines, Air Force, Army, or Navy.
These young people are being educated by the government as scholars and will become part of their uniformed services after their graduation.
I think the following are only four of the many reasons why the Reserved Officers Training Corps should be part of our tertiary education curriculum:
- It is a potent tool in instilling discipline and nationalism among young Filipinos.
- Disaster resiliency and preparedness can be made part of the ROTC.
- ROTC cadets may also be a pool from which national athletes may be selected to represent the country in various sports events.
- Since the Universal Free College Education is already in effect, the ROTC program can be part of said scholarship system.
We need not underscore the primordial role of a disciplined, educated, and patriotic Filipino youth in our quest for sustainable development and lasting peace. I am certain that such can be achieved through the implementation of an effective and transformative military service training.