ROTC as leadership training

Published August 10, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares

Public opinion has been divided over the President’s announcement in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) that he wants a mandatory military training for senior high school students. He included the proposed initiative among the priority items in his legislative agenda.

The President’s announcement echoed the earlier call made by Education Secretary and Vice President Sarah Duterte for the return of the Reserved Officers Training Course (ROTC) at the Grades 11 and 12 level.

Critics of the return of mandatory military for the youth cite the burden of added expenses to the parents of the students. Others are quick to recall the death of an ROTC cadet from a major university allegedly in the hands of cadet officers. Resurrecting the program may mean bringing back the abuses, critics say.

Some have also called attention to the apparent “obsolete” training methods used in the ROTC. War will never again be fought the way it was taught in what used to be a compulsory program in the first two years of college, they say. Modern war is fought using high technology, not using the drills that a trainee-cadet used to experience, they point out.

Other critics have a more defeatist view. They say that mandatory military training is useless because we are too small and too poor a country. We are in no position to defend our territory and we will just have to rely on the promise of our allies to come to our aid when we are attacked by an aggressor nation.

Advocates of the return of ROTC cite its tremendous benefits. They mention two: the program’s ability to instill discipline; and its ability to teach patriotism. The teaching of these two values have been absent since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo moved for the abolition of the ROTC and its counterpart in high school in the face of the public howl against the abuses which resulted in the unfortunate demise of the ROTC cadet.

While we do not belittle the concerns and reservations aired by the critics of a mandatory military training program, we find a lot of value in the position taken by the two highest officials of the land in favor of its return at the senior high school level.

In addition to “instilling discipline” and teaching “patriotism,” we believe a refined and modernized ROTC program will provide our young with a proper “laboratory” where they can learn and apply leadership skills. Some of the country’s esteemed leaders were products of the advanced ROTC program.

Among them were the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.; the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro; the revered former Senators Lorenzo Tañada and Heherson Alvarez; former University of the Philippines President and new Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual, to name a few.

True, leadership skills can be learned, acquired and honed in other arenas. Military training, however, has the distinct advantage of providing a leadership training program where the leadership trainee is exposed to optimum levels of pressure. The ability to think clearly, create options and make quick and sound decisions under stressful circumstances are valuable leadership traits.

Friends who are occupying leadership positions in government and in the corporate world attest to the contribution of their ROTC training to their success in their chosen civilian field. They point out that military operations are most often conducted by teams. Their experience in such operations during their ROTC days have helped them understand and appreciate the dynamics of teamwork and have honed their skills in coordinating operations, building consensus and inspiring others to action.

There are more than 120 countries in the world today (the Philippines excluded) which have compulsory military training and service.

The list includes rich and advanced countries like Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and Sweden.

It also includes our neighbors Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam.

When the mandatory military training is finally implemented, we hope that the concerned implementing agencies would assure us that there will be no repeat of the mistakes and abuses of the past.

Physical abuses including hazing must be prevented at all cost. The verbal abuses which some cadet officers used to subject their cadets prior to the abolition of the ROTC should also be banned. We believe the days of the cruel “drill sergeant” is over. Command can be exercised without diminishing the dignity of the persons under it. The ability to remain stable under pressure can be acquired without the curses and the dehumanizing remarks that training cadres used in the past.

There have been talks that in the past, some corrupt elements in school departments which oversaw the ROTC programs perpetrated a system where students could be given training credits without having to attend in exchange for a handsome sum of money. We do not know if this racket had been proven. Nevertheless, let us make sure that this and other evil practices of the past would remain a part of the ROTC’s tainted past.

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