The Duterte regime and its minions in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is harking on false patriotism for pushing for the return of mandatory ROTC amid its inutility on China’s incursions on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
Now that we are called to defend our sovereignty, the Chief Executive himself repeatedly said we cannot and will not defend our territory from China’s intrusions and would instead allow them to fish, harness oil and make profit with our country’s natural resources. Even if that meant leaving many of our own fishermen to go hungry.
(Government officials saying the Philippines will require permits for those who will pass our seas when it is not required by international law or that other countries have occupied more Philippine territory than China did that has been proven untrue are statements meant to confuse the public and make us believe that the government is now pursuing our claims.)
The youth of today will find it hard to believe that ROTC will inculcate patriotism while Duterte has shown himself to be a good puppet of US and China; and the AFP, a constant loyal servant to US interests in the Philippines.
In Duterte’s time, US intervention in the Philippines heightened with the flourishing of one-sided military agreements with the US such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Under VFA, more trainings of bigger numbers of US troops were held in Philippine soil and US military officials said the number of troops to join military exercises in the Philippines will double next year. Around five US military installations have been built inside AFP camps under EDCA. While these agreements have been legitimized by Chief Executives past and present, they actually blatantly trample upon the country’s sovereignty. Duterte also has to come clean on the US Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines, that the US Armed Forces admitted in January 2018, that was staged in Marawi and resulted to the destruction of the historic Islamic city.
Duterte is also very careful not to offend China on the issue of West Philippine Sea in exchange for more than P 301 billion of loans in at least 12 infrastructure projects; among them, the environmentally-destructive Kaliwa Dam project. Duterte pawned parts of the Philippine territory in event of non-payment of debts to China.
The government has poured billions of funds on military modernization, intelligence, guns and ammunition, doubled the pay of uniformed personnel in the three years of the Duterte administration.
The long-backward defense capacities and lack of industries in the country was brought about by being stunted by the US and other supposedly military allies who made the Philippine government buy their war hand-me-downs, a system that also fosters corruption in the military. In 2018, the country reportedly spent P35 billion on old, outdated, or used war equipment from the US via the US Excess Defense Articles program. Just May of this year, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed interest on acquiring one or two notedly “soon-to-retire” P-3 Orion surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft from the US via the same program.
Over the years and past administrations, the national budget prioritized war over services. In 2019, the Department of National Defense received an additional budget of P 49.7 billion, while the Philippine National Police budget grew by P 40.7 billion, getting 36.4% and 30.7% increases respectively. Meanwhile, the Department of Education was allocated a P 31.1-billion increase (6.6% increase) and added P 912 million (1.4% increase) to State Colleges and Universities, while the health budget was cut by P 1 billion.
With all these funds, for the DND to say that the government’s capacity to fight wars decreased or become stunted with the lack of mandatory ROTC or mandatory military service (being said time and again by ROTC proponents from the AFP) is also nonsense. That all these funds did not show for anything much or anything resembling modernization reeks of nothing else but corruption. That the guns of the PNP and the rifles and tanks of the AFP are pointed at poor or unarmed people who wanted to stand up for their rights and not at foreign usurpers (e.g. Martial law in Mindanao, Oplan Tokhang, Oplan Sauron, etc.) is most abominable.
We cannot forget the death of Anakbayan member Mark Welson Chua, ROTC cadet from University Sto. Tomas (UST), who was kidnapped, tortured, killed and thrown into the Pasig River by his ROTC officers for exposing widespread corruption, extortion and other irregularities including hazing in the program under his commandant, an Army major at that time. Chua and another Anakbayan member tried to expose this through the university’s student publication. A witness came forward to have seen a man with hands and feet tied, head wrapped in packaging tape inside the Department of Military Science and Tactics office in UST, which was the same manner Chua was fished out of the Pasig River, at the same night of Chua’s disappearance. Two were sentenced and two remain at-large in connection with Chua’s death in 2001; all four were cadet officers of the Philippine Army Reserve Command assigned to the UST ROTC office. UST and other universities in Metro Manila called for the abolition of ROTC, leading mass walkouts in schools, boycotts of ROTC classes, burning of their own ROTC uniforms, etc. Chua’s death and the ensuing protests opened a floodgate of cases of corruption, hazing and abuses in the ROTC program all over the country, releasing the students’ long-held disgust for the program. The ROTC program, then-taken for four semesters and a requirement for graduation in college for all male students, became optional in 2002.
The youth must stand up against being pawns for the militarist, corrupt designs of Duterte and the AFP through the mandatory ROTC. Instead, in pursuit of service to the people, the youth must integrate with the farmers and workers and the poor, learn from them, help make them aware of their rights and push for their just demands—land, food, homes, decent wages, education, social services. In pursuit of true nationalism, the youth must link arms with the Filipino people to repel and overthrow tyrants, usurpers and invaders that have long ravaged the nation, in order to end a system that favors the few rich and powerful and build one that serves the interests of the many.
No to mandatory ROTC!
Serve the people!