Mandatory ROTC vs sports and pageantry

(Not really a sports topic, but..)

After reading some of the comments on Sara Duterte’s plan for 18-year-olds to render mandatory military service, about how it is supposed to foster nationalism, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Did these people even experience mandatory ROTC?”

Let’s disregard how costly Sara’s plan is and focus on this notion that mandatory military service will promote nationalism. Because it doesn’t. Heck, pageantry, another thing Sara scoffs at, promotes nationalism better than mandatory ROTC or military service.

ANYTHING BUT NATIONALISM. Mandatory ROTC or militart service doesn’t promote nationalism as what I have experienced after mandatory ROTC in the 90s.

What did my two years in ROTC teach me? One, it’s a fucked up version of the country, where the privileged few gets to enjoy perks and the rich gets to escape mandatory service.

Three weeks into the ROTC program, where every cadet is required to have that 4×5 white-side-wall hair cut, you’d learn who among your batchmates know someone who know someone who knows an officer. They don’t have the haircut the rest of the guys have.

In the mid-90s, exemption from the ROTC program was at P3,000, yep ROTC officers laughed their way to the bank or, as sadly in the case of UST, would kill for their right to laugh their way to the bank.

And that’s not how they enjoyed their privileges. Students with cars also get exempted from the weekly field marching, as long as they sign up as “transpo” for the officers. What is this animal? Officers go to a party and they need cars.

In my second year, I was lucky enough to join the Law Enforcement Services, as opposed to the poor schmucks left toiling under the military setup. It was one of the most important thing you learn as freshman ROTC cadet; join the LES in your second year. Slots are limited, so be the first to sign up.

I did and in our first meeting, there were no gung-ho officers. Just us second-year cadets and the cop in charge. He asked for volunteer officers but there were no takers. After saying those who would

volunteer as officers would get free snacks for the day, I decided, what the heck and joined the few who volunteered.

Do you know what our cop in charge told us during the first meeting of officers?

He told us,”You will all have a quota of 1, but you have to clear it with me.”

Most of the guys were confused but I knew exactly what he meant. Each of us volunteer officers will have one name we can submit, one name who would be exempted from actually reporting to the weekly classes or field sessions, one name from whom we can ask thousands or what-not, as long as we clear it with him. I thought, if we get each get one, how many do the Army ROTC officers get?

My second thought was to tell the volunteer officer next to me, “Can I be your quota?” Man he was so naive and confused. I never showed up again after that and thankfully, thanks to the CWTS reforms brought about by the death of the UST cadet, my one year and one day under the ROTC program was enough.

What did it teach me? Nationalism? Naah. You don’t spend a minute thinking about love of country, toiling under officers who ask you “”What is the 11th general order?” (There are only 10 GOs and the standard reply for the 11th GO is ‘Obey first before you complain.) Does that teach nationalism or blind obedience? Under the ROTC, you learn of thousands of ways to count down until dismissal, you learn to kill your stupid officers in your mind.

Perhaps that’s what Sara and the mandatory military supporters want; to have the next generation of 18-year-olds as blind automatons who would say, “Sir, yes sir,” the next time they’d have hare-brained ideas.

You want to promote nationalism? Teach Philippine history, promote critical thinking. But of course, there idea of history is one that involves the Tallano gold and one that paints those who promotes critical thinking among students as rebels.

Let’s look at the past. ROTC was mandatory in my generation and the generation before me. It didn’t promote what Sara thinks it would promote. Her father is living proof of that.

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