POSTSCRIPT / May 18, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Is Army Reserve Command ready?

IN A WARLIKE national emergency, can we mobilize in three days at least a battalion-size fighting force (or about 500 reservists) in each of the 60 or so major provinces with a population of not less than 425,000?

We are asking, because in reaction to last Sunday’s Postscript where we batted for making mandatory a reformed ROTC for college students, a reader asked what ever happened to the reserve force supposedly drawn from ROTC cadets and military trainees.

We don’t know the answer, so we repeat the question in the hope that whoever is the commander of the reserve force, if any, would come out and enlighten the public.

We’re keeping the discussion alive to advance the plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to bring back ROTC and/or conscription. As a UP Vanguard asset, this citizen-soldier knows the positive effects of military training on the person and the nation’s defense posture.

Our advocacy for ROTC is premised on its first being reformed, considering that it was downgraded years back after being rocked by scandals and complaints of some students and their parents.

On Sept. 1, 1977, an Army Reserve Command was set up, but with the 1986 EDSA Revolt, the unit was swept away with the Marcos martial rule structure. In 1991, a new reservists law (RA 7077) was enacted to reactivate the Reserve Command.

It was reactivated on May 12, 1992, and renamed Army Reserve Command on Oct. 1, 1999. Its mission is to maintain, administer, develop, train, and organize reservist units to help enhance national security and development.

It claims a force of 120,000+ in ready reserve, with 50,000+ on standby. They must be masters of camouflage we hardly see the warm bodies. Last May 12, RESCOM’s anniversary, they should have had their presence felt. Unit commanders, if any, should step forward to be recognized.

• Perfect time to reform ROTC

RIGHT now – with a no-nonsense President Duterte running the country — is the perfect time to reform ROTC, make it mandatory in college, and help sharpen our military preparedness.

In case a step is seriously taken in this direction, we want to contribute some thoughts:

Let’s change the name ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), which was only borrowed from the United States. It gives the wrong impression that it is for aspiring commissioned officers. It is not. It is actually a training ground for foot soldiers.

We can call the basic two-year training a Basic Militia or a Basic Reservist course. Those who want to advance to become commissioned officers can take an additional one or two years in an Officers’ Candidate Course along with their regular studies for a college degree.

The focus should be the cultivation of Love of Country and Discipline alongside basic military proficiency, including tactics and handling of firearms. The entire scaffolding will collapse without love of country and discipline.

We can integrate a subject on the drug scourge so presented that it will cultivate an aversion to narcotics and other addictive substances associated with vice, and thereby motivate the youth to help a holistic drug drive.

We can also consider a drug test as requirement for military training – not to screen out drug users with the intention of penalizing them, but to wean them away from addiction and start them anew.

The course should not be all marching and saluting, although drills have proven instructive values. Community service and disaster rescue/rehab should be woven into the program.

In my simplified outlook, I would be happy to see trainees learn these Basic 3 S’s: Stand steady, Say sir, Shoot straight. If they can master those three building blocks, anything beyond will be a bonus.

The way a soldier or a policeman wears his uniform, or even by the way he stands or salutes, tells much about his state of discipline and his capacity to help fellow Filipinos.

• ROTC must live down past scandals

ASIDE from reader Marino Dizon’s asking what ever happened to the reserve force, we received more feedback, mostly negative. Samples:

Edwin Amoranto: Reform ROTC before putting it back. ROTC during my time was useless. It was just marching and formation. A number of cadets were able to handle the Garand rifles (I hope not the Garand again today.) ROTC before was a waste of time. The program did not teach us how to defend the country. It should focus on war games, targeting the enemy, and survival with minimal means on hand. Those who underwent ROTC before cannot defend the country.

Dickison Que (recalling his Mapúa days in 1968-70): In my college years, ROTC was a training ground for corruption of cadets by the military officers overseeing the program. At the end of the semester, cadets went to the ROTC office to verify their attendance and grade. One who has no absences would find 2 or 3 absences in their record and money is demanded to remove the absences. I was a victim year in and year out. The drawers of cadet officers were full of money. During exams, payment was collected from each cadet so the answers would be given to him. The only training we gained was marching around with wooden rifles.

Dr. Benjamin G. Tayabas, former president of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and Universidad de Manila: The National Service Training Program at the college level has these options: ROTC, civic welfare training service (CWTS), and literacy training service (LTS). Prior to the NSTP, the only mandatory military training was basic/advance ROTC.

Over the years, more students chose CWTS or LTS. The pool of ROTC graduates going into active service or a reservist group has declined. While to date, there is no definitive study on the impact of CWTS or LTS vis-à-vis its objectives, ROTC produces the trained manpower for military, law enforcement (police), and citizen’s army reserve which our country needs.

A reformed and revitalized ROTC program must be mandatory beginning this school year. I unequivocally support President Duterte’s marching orders for a strong ROTC for our youth.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 18, 2017)

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