THE VIEWS OF RIZAL
Public opinion is divided over the president’s announcement in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) that he wants mandatory military training for high school students. It has included the proposed initiative among the priorities of its legislative programme.
President’s announcement echoes previous call by Education Secretary and Vice President
Sarah Duterte for the return of the Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC) to the 11th and 12th grade levels.
Critics of the mandatory return of the army for young people cite the burden of additional expenses for the students’ parents. Others are quick to recall the death of a major university ROTC cadet allegedly at the hands of cadets. Resurrecting the program may mean bringing abuse back, critics say.
Some have also called attention to the seemingly “outdated” training methods used in ROTC. War will never again be fought the way it was taught in what was once a required curriculum in the first two years of college, they say. Modern warfare is fought using high technology, not using the drills a student-student used to experience, they point out.
Other critics take a more defeatist view. They say mandatory military training is useless because we
are too small and too poor a country. We are not in a position to defend our territory and we will only have to rely on the promise of our allies to come to our aid when we are attacked by an aggressor country.
Proponents of returning ROTC cite its enormous benefits. They mention two: the capacity of the program
instill discipline; and its ability to teach patriotism. The teaching of these two values has been absent since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proposed the abolition of ROTC and its high school counterpart in the face of public howls of abuse that resulted in the unfortunate demise of the ROTC cadet.
While we do not minimize the concerns and reservations voiced by critics of a compulsory military training program, we find great value in the position taken by the two most senior officials in the country in favor of its return to higher secondary education. .
In addition to “instilling discipline” and teaching “patriotism”, we believe that a refined and modernized culture
The ROTC program will provide our youth with a true “laboratory” where they can learn and apply leadership skills. Some of the country’s esteemed leaders were products of the Advanced ROTC program.
Among them were the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.; the late Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Fred Ruiz Castro; revered former senators Lorenzo Tañada and Heherson Alvarez; Alfredo Pascual, former president of the University of the Philippines and new secretary of commerce and industry, to name a few.
It is true that leadership skills can be learned, acquired and perfected in other areas. However, military training
has the distinct advantage of providing a leadership training program where the leadership trainee is exposed to optimal levels of pressure. The ability to think clearly, create options, and make quick, sound decisions under stressful circumstances are valuable leadership traits.
Friends who hold leadership positions in government and business testify to the
contribution of their ROTC training to their success in the civilian field of their choice. They point out that
military operations are most often carried out by teams. Their experience in such operations during their ROTC days has helped them understand and appreciate the dynamics of teamwork and to
honed their skills in coordinating operations, building consensus and inspiring others to action.
There are over 120 countries in the world today (excluding the Philippines) that have mandatory military training and service.
The list includes rich and advanced countries like Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and Sweden.
It also includes our neighbors Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam.
When mandatory military training is finally implemented, we hope that the implementing agencies involved will assure us that there will be no repetition of past mistakes and abuses.
Physical abuse, including hazing, should be avoided at all costs. The verbal abuse that some cadets
officers accustomed to subduing their cadets before the abolition of ROTC should also be banned. We believe
the days of the cruel “drill sergeant” are over. Command can be exercised without infringing on the dignity of those who depend on it. The ability to hold steady under pressure can be learned without the swear words and dehumanizing remarks that training executives used in the past.
There have been discussions that in the past some corrupt elements of the school departments that oversaw ROTC programs perpetrated a system where students could receive course credits without having to attend in exchange for a handsome amount of money. We do not know if this racket had proven itself. Nevertheless, let us ensure that this and other evil practices of the past will remain part of ROTC’s tainted past.
*For feedback, please email it to [email protected] or send it to Block 6 Lot 10 Sta. Barbara 1 horn. Bradley St., Mission Hills Subd., Brgy. San Roque, town of Antipolo, Rizal.
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