By Datu Zahir Meditar
Illustration by Aynrand Galicia
We currently live in these dark, unexciting times where the administration is led by a whimsical, bloodthirsty dictator with his inept cronies. The regime is desperate on stamping out the potential of the youth, depriving them of their future as empowered individuals, vigilant on the government’s fascist policies. The rampant attacks and threats to school publications and academic freedom are manifestations of the regime’s commitment to maintain the status quo at all costs, thus their constant attempts to revive the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) program at the secondary and tertiary level.
This long debate of institutionalizing mandatory ROTC now comprises not only senior high school students but also the collegiate level after the House of Representatives have already passed a consolidated draft of the House bill. At the moment, it is labelled “Citizen Service Training Course” (CSTC) that has the exact provisions and principles with the ROTC program. The draft bill will revoke the current NSTP Law which provides students the freedom of choice. According to the bill, all senior high school and college students will be mandated to undergo both military and non-military training, further stating that once they finish the program, they will immediately be part of the reserve force for mobilization by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the Philippine President.
What is more disturbing is that after the bill passes into law, UP will serve as a pilot-testing university through the creation of the UP Center for Citizen Service Training (CCST). As stated in Sections 21 and 22 of House Bill 02695, it will be implemented to all UP constituent units system-wide as an avenue for the developments of the program and be under the Office of the UP President that shall give improvements to the CSTC Point of Instruction (CSTC POI). Additionally, once the UP CCST is made, it will design and develop CSTC subjects and modules that will have assessments. This is a direct infiltration of the state on our academic freedom since this is synonymous to having a mandatory ROTC, which is extremely controversial in a sense that it traces back its roots on promoting violence among its constituents.
The AFP and PNP has been problematic as they went on a killing spree since the implementation of Oplan Tokhang and MO 32; They went on with the bloodthirsty war on the people through the execution of EO70; the youth does not deserve to become part of the state’s propaganda to maintain the status quo. Not only that, this program would yield more blind followers, as it would obviously spread the culture of impunity and violence, instead of promoting nationalism. The program does not address the existing socio-political problems of the nation, and instead bolsters the very institutions that maintain it. Lastly, history can attest to the many cases of hazing that has happened in the country, many victims have been killed and yet justice has not yet been truly served for them. How much more when ROTC exists in schools?
With all that’s going, there is also a need to amplify the dangers of having complete military control over the populace especially in the aspect of reserve force. Schools and universities should be zones of peace where the safe learning environment of students is free from potential presence of firearms around campuses. In prior hearings in legislative chambers, ROTC was declared to be a logistical hurdle- achieving national consciousness can be achieved in a proactive way; instilling nationalism to students can be achieved through empowering our educational institutions.
Nationalism can be practiced in so many ways. The mere fact that our farmers, workers, doctors, engineers, foresters, janitors, teachers, activists, and all other concerned professions offer their whole selves together with their blood, sweat, and tears for public service, is already a clear illustration of how patriotism could be manifested not only in military service. The state must prioritize more in giving proper attention, support, and funding to these concerned sectors like agriculture, science and technology, education, and environment instead of funneling funds for military spending.
Times like these are so crucial as it calls for a more solid collective and collaborative action from students to defend our academic freedom. We should refuse to be considered as guinea pigs, or testing grounds for such military control. Together, we will awaken our senses and not be victims of this blind nationalism. [P]