EDITORIAL - Remembering Mark Welson Chua

The Philippine Star

With President Marcos certifying the measure as urgent, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading on Dec. 15 a bill establishing a two-year mandatory National Citizens Service Training or NCST program for higher education students and an optional four-year Reserve Officers Training Corps program.

As stipulated in the House bill, the NCST will be implemented in all public and private higher learning institutions by the Commission on Higher Education, and in post-secondary vocational schools by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in consultation with the Department of National Defense.

With the President’s certification, the return of mandatory military training in colleges and universities is looking like a sure thing. It is good to remember why ROTC was made optional in 2002 with the enactment of Republic Act 9163, which launched the National Service Training Program.

Mechanical engineering student Mark Welson Chua, 19, who had uncovered corruption, bribery and extortion in the ROTC program of the University of Santo Tomas as a member of the unit’s intelligence monitoring team, had disclosed his findings to the UST student publication The Varsitarian, which ran the story on Feb. 21, 2001. The ROTC commandant at the time was sacked as a result.

Chua went missing on March 15, 2001. On March 18, his bloated, decomposing body was found wrapped in a carpet, floating in the Pasig River near Jones Bridge. He was hogtied and his face wrapped in cloth and packing tape. One of the killers, UST architecture student Arnulfo Aparri and an ROTC officer, was sentenced to death in 2004, but it was changed to life in prison without parole after capital punishment was abolished. Another ROTC cadet, Eduardo Tabrilla, pleaded guilty to homicide in 2006. But two other cadets implicated in the murder, Paul Tan and Michael Rainard Manangbao, are at large.

Proponents of the return of mandatory military training for higher education students must ensure that enough safeguards will be in place to prevent a repeat of Chua’s fate. The country has enough problems with hazing involving fraternities that are supposed to foster brotherhood.

Mandatory military training is supposed to promote discipline and love of country among the youth. The mandatory NCST aims to enhance the capacity of Filipino citizens to mobilize in times of calamities, disasters, national or local emergencies, rebellion, invasion or war. The objective is laudable, but safeguards must be in place against a repeat of the anomalies exposed by Mark Welson Chua, and to prevent the program from bringing out the beast among the youth.

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