EDITORIAL- Serving the country
(The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2019 - 12:00am

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is shifting its focus from internal threats to conventional or external defense. The refocusing will be enhanced by beefing up the AFP’s reserve force, which accounts for about 80 percent of the military’s human capability in case a need arises.

With President Duterte still maintaining high popularity and his super majority intact in the legislature, there’s a good chance that his wish for the revival of mandatory participation in ROTC or the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps will be granted by the 18th Congress.

Resentful conscripts can be fatal for any military force. Resentment among the youth can also doom the revival of the ROTC. The program remains alive, but participation is voluntary, as provided for under Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program law. If the government intends to make ROTC mandatory again, it must be preceded by an information campaign on what can be gained from basic military training. The AFP can tap entertainment celebrity Matteo Guidicelli to talk about why he underwent rigorous training for the Army Scout Rangers to become a reservist. He described the month-long experience, which is much more rigorous than ROTC, as “the best experience” of his life.

Besides the discipline instilled and the physical aspects of the training, proponents of the revival of ROTC want to emphasize how the program can develop a keener sense of belonging to one nation, of patriotism and the idea that a person must be ready to defend the country if the situation calls for it.

At the same time, proponents of the revival must address concerns about a return of the scandals that led to the end of mandatory ROTC in 2002. The abolition was done in the wake of the murder of University of Santo Tomas student Mark Welson Chua after he exposed alleged corruption in the ROTC program of UST. There were also complaints that the ROTC program lacked equipment and the training overall was disappointing. Such concerns must be addressed if proponents want to make ROTC acceptable and even attractive to the youth.

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