MANILA – Youth group Anakbayan called on the President Rodrigo Duterte to back off the revival of mandatory service to the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, a plan which was tackled in the fourth cabinet meeting of the Duterte administration last Monday.
The youth group vowed to wage a strong campaign against the proposed revival of mandatory ROTC, saying it would mobilize thousands of students and youth on the streets nationwide to oppose what it called an abusive, burdensome, anomalous, and fascist program.
“ROTC should be abolished, not made mandatory. The program has never instilled nationalism, social responsibility, or discipline. It is a training ground for fascist repression and corruption,” said Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.
He said ROTC has a tainted record of stimulating power-tripping, corruption hazing, and mindless violence, adding it would also mean additional fees and more burdens to students.
“ROTC is also a wellspring of corrupt practices such as the selling of uniforms and other requirements at marked-up prices and soliciting of bribes from those wishing to avoid the course,” he said.
“Let us not forget the memory of University of Sto. Tomas student Mark Wilson Chua who was brutally murdered in 2001 because of his brave exposition of corruption in the UST Corps. His death became the spark that led to massive street protests for the stopping of mandatory ROTC,” said Crisostomo.
He also cited the recent case of hazing of ROTC cadets from the University of Mindanao-Tagum who were repeatedly given strong blows by their higher ups on their chest and stomach as exposed in a video that went viral online last June 2016.
In January 2014, 2 female cadets of the ROTC program in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines also complained after they were hit by ROTC officials with half-inch wooden sticks and wooden rifles which caused severe bruises on their palms and thighs.
“ROTC is no longer mandatory and yet the rampant violence and abuse of students’ rights under the program continues. The program is even used by active duty officers to conduct military surveillance in various schools. This will only get worse if ROTC is made mandatory,” said Crisostomo.
Anakbayan said it is precisely the lack of nationalism and discipline that fed the strong campaign of students to abolish the ROTC program, resulting in the institution in 2002 of the National Service Training Program (NSTP) under Republic Act 9163.
“President Duterte, you claim to be a socialist. But ROTC is outrightly fascist, and just adds another layer of oppression on the youth and people. If you are truly for the oppressed, we challenge you to stop listening to the generals and rightwing nuts in your midst,” said Crisostomo.
Instead of reviving mandatory ROTC, the youth group called for the total abolition of the program and the upgrading of the NSTP to better instill among the Filipino youth a better sense of service to marginalized communities and the nation. [BicolToday.com]