The necessity for ROTC
IN his first State of the Nation Address, President Bongbong Marcos wasted no time in calling for Congress to enact a law making it mandatory for senior high students in all public and private tertiary level educational institutions to enroll in the military training program called Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).
The president’s call echoed earlier pronouncements made by Vice President Sara Duterte during the early part of this year when she posited the view that ROTC should be mandatory.
Of course, the operative word here is mandatory, considering that ROTC was never really abolished but was simply relegated and offered as an option when Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program (NSTP) was enacted in 2002. Under the NSTP, students may choose ROTC, a literary training service, or civil welfare training service as required by the program.
Why do students need ROTC? Well, let us first find out why there is an ROTC in the first place. In the United States, the concept of ROTC was created by captain Alden Partridge who was a former West Point instructor who came up with the idea of a so-called “citizen soldier,” who by definition is a man trained to act in a military capacity when his nation requires it but is also capable of fulfilling standard civilian functions during peacetime. Another genesis for the modern ROTC came from the “Plattsburg idea” which basically was a summer training camp for potential military officers at Plattsburg, New York and where business and professional men were drilled in military fundamentals. Supporters of this Plattsburg idea believed that it is better to be safe than sorry.
Here in the Philippines ROTC had its roots in the Commonwealth Act of 1935, otherwise known as the National Defense Act of 1935. That law provides for the employment of the nation’s citizens and resources for national defense and to be affected by a national mobilization. It also provides that the said national mobilization shall be ordered in any case of threatened or actual aggression. Afterward, Article II of the said law then speaks of obligatory military service for all citizens. Subsequently, Republic Act No. 7077, otherwise known as the Citizens Armed Forces of the Philippines Reservist Act of 1991, established the ROTC.
One may argue that the prevailing situation in the country does not call for a mandatory ROTC, but if we would only look beyond our borders and see the stark reality of various power plays now being waged by military superpowers we may need to rethink our preparedness, and that of our citizens, in the event some opportunistic foreign nation will suddenly get the itch to invade us or encroach into our territorial jurisdiction and violate our sovereignty as a nation.
Take the case of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the Ukraine soldiers fighting to defend their land consist of – apart from professional soldiers – conscripts, ordinary citizens, and volunteers from other nations.
Now imagine a scenario where the Philippines is invaded by a foreign country and the president calls upon its citizens to defend the land as provided for in Section 4 Article II of the 1987 Philippine constitution which says, “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.” Would the Filipino citizens be prepared and able to defend their motherland similar to what is now happening in Ukraine? Are our youth enabled and capable of taking military action against a foreign aggressor when the need arises? Will they even have an iota of so-called military discipline required to organize themselves into cohesive groups such as platoons, battalions, and divisions to support and assist the Philippine military to repel the invaders?
If the war is reduced to a video game, a hip-hop or rap competition, a singing contest, an art competition, or a beauty contest, we might win it hands down. But in a violent military conflict where the very lives of the people are at stake, military knowledge becomes essential.
Finally, as has often been said “Si vis pacem, para bellum” or “if you want peace, prepare for war”.