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Mandatory ROTC

AT last, no less than President Rodrigo Duterte cognizant of his dual role as commander-in-chief, has made the call for the return of “mandatory ROTC”. The long hibernating policy issue has been kept in the drawing board of the armed and defense establishments gaining support from specific legislators only to be bulldozed by “militant” voices in the Lower House, or to be overtaken by a new Congress.

I distinctly recall back then, the audience granted a grieving Welson Chua (father of slain UST ROTC Cadet Mark Chua) to Malacañang. We met with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo precisely to petition for the retention of ROTC as a mandatory requirement before graduation. We made clear to the President, if ROTC was made optional, it would suffer the same fate as the subject “Spanish”. An elective is the fastest way to guarantee the demise of such a course.

In my mind, I was expecting the “Commander-in-Chief” hat of PGMA to kick-in. What we heard instead was, “It is a possibility we have to risk”. End of story. Fast forward to the present clime for “change”, the following recommendations are submitted: 1) as a compromise, the Mandatory requirement may initially be phased-in to all State Colleges and Universities.

No “ifs” and no “buts.” An “iskolar ng bayan” has no say in this because the greatest act of patriotism is enrollment in defending family and country; 2) The NSTP Law be amended so that graduates of the other components on NSTP could be harnessed as part of the Citizen Armed Force, distinct from the uniformed Reservists but under the AFP.

Administrative changes required in the AFP for this; 3) The “One-Summer ROTC Program” where the college student has the option to take his ROTC during any Summer Vacation from MS-11 to MS-22 prior to graduation. In short, no more week-end ROTC. The latter program is a weak course – a failing learning curve. Not to mention a distraction for students serious about their majors. Note, what is preponderant here is not ROTC as collegiate course but the end state of preparing the entire nation for home-defense. (Erik Espina)