ROTC: Age, not grade

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - June 7, 2019 - 12:00am

The bill seeking to reimpose ROTC is a controversial one. Now that President Duterte has certified it as urgent, the issue becomes even more contentious. Much of the angst, however, stems from lumping several things into one. The matter of where to reimpose it --senior high or college-- is one example of why the proposal is very hot.

There should only be one issue, and that is ROTC itself. The question to be asked is whether it really serves a purpose to have it back. If it is brought back, it becomes immaterial whether it is in senior high or in college. Age is not the issue because in truth and in fact, today's Grade 11 and Grade 12 students were yesterday's first year and second year college students.

The target ages for ROTC's return are the same at the time of its departure. The words “senior high” and “college” are just qualifiers to describe educational level. It is age that defines both receptiveness and ability to make the program of preparatory military training work.

The proponents of the bill, as well as Duterte himself, certainly must have their own reasons for pushing the return of ROTC. Opponents of the bill just as certainly have theirs. Let the debate then be on the merit, or lack of it, of bringing ROTC back. It should not be needlessly hindered by the senior high or college question which should not be a question in the first place.

The truly relevant questions should be directed at the need and rationale for pushing the return of something whose demise had initially been greeted with sighs of relief and great cheer. I say initially because over the years there has been a slow but steady clamor for its return.

There is, however, a need to put in perspective the reason for the clamor. The clamor is essentially a reaction of people both bothered and angered by the growing lack of discipline among the country's youth. But while it is difficult, nay, impossible to dispute that fact, one wonders if the clamor considered military training as the only appropriate vehicle for discipline.

Of course, the bill does not consider discipline as the only reason for wanting ROTC back. Indeed, I doubt if discipline is a major consideration at all despite the wordings. Words like patriotism and national defense figure more prominently in the bill. But of course we all know what our patriotic and civic duties are, with or without ROTC.

In fact, a certain Gary Alejano, a certain Chel Diokno, and a certain Florin Hilbay had wanted to jetski into the disputed South China Sea for what they said was their patriotic duty to defend our sovereignty. ROTC had nothing to do with their caper, to the eternal relief and gratitude of those behind the return of ROTC. But that is another story.

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