“It is high time that we excise this vestige of a bygone militaristic era from our schools with finality. In the coming days, we vow to intensify the call for the abolition of the ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program].”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Abolish ROTC! This is the call of the students of Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) after a freshman student complained of hazing committed by senior cadet officers.
On Jan. 16, Sheena, not her real name, 18 years old, said two senior cadets of the PUP ROTC or the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program reportedly hit her with wooden rifles that caused severe bruises at the back of her thighs. She said it was supposedly a punishment for not attending the briefing night on Jan. 15.
“They asked me why I did not attend the briefing night. I told them that my mother did not allow me to go,” Sheena said. She said was told to do squat thrust with another female student who also did not attend the briefing night. In her affidavit she said she began to feel nervous when she saw a wood and a wooden rifle inside the ROTC office.
Sheena said they were hit with wooden rifles by the ROTC senior officers. “First they hit my palms six times using the wood. Then another officer hit my legs seven times using the wooden rifle. I was crying then. I could not understand what they were saying all I could say was ‘Ma’am, no, ma’am!’ and ‘Sir no sir!’” Sheena said in a press conference held at the grounds of PUP on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
“I did what they told me to do out of fear. Ma’am hit my legs seven times using the wooden rifle. I fell after being whacked the fifth time, ” Sheena said in her affidavit.
She said she thought about running away and escaping but she was scared that the officers might throw the rifle at her and hit her head. She said the officers told her they did that to teach her “to be responsible.”
“We are really mad. We do not hit her and they did this to her. We will definitely file a case against the two cadet officers. We will not allow them to get away with it. We want justice,” Sheena’s eldest sister said.
Her mother said they support Sheeba in her struggle and is one with calls to abolish the ROTC. “This (violence in ROTC) should be stopped,” her mother told Bulatlat.com. Their names are being withheld for security reasons.
Progressive youth groups condemned the hazing and once again call for the abolishment of the ROTC.
Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo condemned the incident and called for the immediate and complete abolition of the ROTC program. “This incident clearly illustrates the violent, fascist tradition that the ROTC brings to campuses. PUP and all schools should immediately suspend the implementation of ROTC towards its total abolition,” he said.
Crisostomo said the people should not forget what happened to University of Santo Tomas (UST) student Mark Nelson Chua who was killed in 2001. Chua ‘s death was linked to his expose’ of the corruption within the UST Corps. The suspects are four ROTC officers.
Chua’s murder became a catalyst for a broad movement to abolish the ROTC program in schools. The clamor to remove the ROTC program in tertiary schools resulted in the creation of the National Service Training Program (NSTP) by virtue of Republic Act 9163 promulgated on January 23, 2002.
The NSTP law declared the ROTC program as optional, and in its place, a Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) was instituted. Crisostomo said ROTC service remained an option in campuses, under the supervision of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). However in PUP, students said that despite the law, ROTC is still mandatory and required in campuses.
“There is a quota required or a minimum number of slots that should be filled in most campuses. This is contrary to it being optional and voluntary,” Crisostomo said.
Crisostomo pointed out that ROTC is being used as a tool to harass progressive student leaders and recruit “student intelligence” volunteers to spy on fellow students. “They still have offices in campuses where they conduct their fascistic, violent, corrupt and abusive activities.”
‘More victims should come out’
Sheena said she came out for justice not only for her but to all the victims of violence in ROTC. She encourages students who have the same experience to also come out. “They should tell their stories because this should not be happening,” she told Bulatlat.com. She said she fears for her and her family’s security but she cannot just let it (the hazing) pass.
“It is not only Sheena who was victimized by this senseless violence. The ROTC teaches blind obedience and cadets are told to follow orders even if it’s wrong,” said Einstein Recedes, spokesman of the Student Christian Student (SCM).
Crisostomo ,meanwhile, encouraged other victims of ROTC abuse to come out and complain. “Students can go to www.anakbayan.org to submit complaints. He said protests are being planned to call for the complete abolition of ROTC.