Patriotism is Dead?
Senator blames it on lack of ROTC
A senator says patriotism is dying in the
country because of the decline in the number of ROTC reservists. He and a
House member have filed bills reviving ROTC as mandatory to college
students. Student groups are once again in uproar saying that all that
ROTC does is to produce “blind followers” and campus spies.
BY ZOFIA LEAL
student protests, Congress enacted four years ago a law that made the
Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) optional to college students and
introduced the National Service Training Program (NSTP) under which
students can either choose literacy training, civic welfare or ROTC. The
non-military NSTP programs which also paved the way for teaching core
values formation and dispensed with the military drills required under
ROTC has since attracted more enrollees. Now it looks like the fight is
not over and bills have been filed in Congress making ROTC once again as a
began in 2001. That year, the campaign to abolish the ROTC gained momentum
after two University of Santo Tomas (UST) students, Mark Welson Chua and
Romulo Yumul, filed a complaint against the UST Department of Military
Science and Tactics and the Department of National Defense (DND) for
bribery and extortion.
following the complaint, Chua’s body was found wrapped in a carpet
floating in the Pasig River, Manila. His hands and feet were tied and his
head was wrapped with cloth and duct tape. Based on the autopsy, he died
suspects for his gruesome murder were four UST ROTC cadet officers:
Michael Reinard Manangbao, Paul Joseph Tan, Arnulfo Aparri, Jr. and
Eduardo Tabrilla. Tabrilla and Aparri are now in jail awaiting a death
sentence; the other two are still at large.
death triggered a public outrage prodding lawmakers to investigate the
ROTC program and to push for its abolition. In its place, Republic Act
9163 or the NSTP Act was passed. Under the new law, students are given a
choice between undergoing the ROTC, the Literacy Training Service (LTS),
or the Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS). LTS is a functional
literacy program for out-of-school youth and adults. CWTS is a community
service program which includes teaching core values, building houses for
the poor and conducting medical missions.
bills are pending in the Senate and the House of Representatives that seek
to make the ROTC mandatory again. These are Senate Bill 2224 sponsored by
Sen. Alfredo Lim, a former police chief and Manila mayor, and House Bill
5460 sponsored by Rep. Eduardo Gullas. SB 2224 seeks to make the ROTC
mandatory for both male and female students while HB 5460 seeks to make
the ROTC compulsory for male students only.
that the introduction of CWTS and LTS programs led to a drastic decrease
in the number of ROTC enrollees. When ROTC was still mandatory, there were
260,000 enrollees nationwide compared to the 80,000 when it became
At the UST
campus in Manila, the number of ROTC enrollees declined from 4,000 in 2002
to only 800-1,000 students in 2005.
decrease in the number of ROTC reservists who, under the law, are
deployable as junior officers in times of war, is affecting the country’s
national security, proponents of the new bills say. In fact, Lim also
added, patriotism is dying in the country.
the other hand, believes ROTC is the “most
effective tool to develop the ethics of service, discipline and patriotism
among the youth.”
for those who oppose the revival of the mandatory ROTC, the UST
whistleblower, Yumul, said the proposal would reverse the gains of
students in their fight against mandatory military training. The
sacrifices of students who were victims of harassments and extortion, and
those killed because of the program would be forgotten, he told Bulatlat.
the nation’s history, Yumul says, national security cannot be ensured by
mandatory military training alone. He said that during the Second World
War, peasants who had no prior military training comprised the Hukbong
Mapagpalaya Laban sa Hapon (HukBaLaHap or People’s Liberation Army against
Japanese Occupation) and did most of the fighting against the Japanese
imperial army. On the other hand, the Philippine Constabulary (PC), the
precursor of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was instrumental in
suppressing patriotic movements ever since the American occupation, Yumul
Suppressing patriotism and freedom
program is not really teaching the students to be patriotic but teaching
them to be blind followers and passive servants,” Yumul explans. The AFP
has no right to continue the ROTC program given the spate of political
killings today. The No. 1 human rights violator should not be allowed to
infiltrate schools and teach students. Even the international community
condemns the human rights violations committed by the AFP. If there is one
thing that needs to be done, that is to fully abolish the ROTC because it
interferes with academic freedom. The ROTC is being used to harass
progressive groups that are critical of Arroyo’s regime.”
In UST, a
student, who asked not to be named, said that he was harassed and
questioned by his fellow ROTC cadets about his membership with Anakbayan
(Sons and Daughters of the People), a progressive youth group. While they
were on military drills, he said, several officers separated him from the
group and grilled him about his involvement with Anakbayan. They then
ordered him to buy water for them. When he returned the officers asked if
he put poison into the water.
the ROTC is also a base for recruiting members of the Student Intelligence
Network (SIN) that monitors progressive organizations inside schools. He
added that during orientations of the ROTC program, legal and democratic
organizations are being tagged as terrorist groups.
against the bills seeking to make ROTC compulsory fear that once enacted,
it will not be long before another student will have to risk his or her
life to expose the ills of an AFP-ran ROTC program. Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided
its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.