August 27, 2019
IT is appropriate and laudable that during yesterday’s commemoration of National Heroes Day, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana seized the opportunity to extol the importance of reviving the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program as a means to instill patriotism among our youth.
The conflation of this national holiday with patriotism among our youth has immense historic and ageless significance.
First, the foundations of the Filipino nation were laid by young people who were barely out of their teens or out of school when the Katipunan was founded and the Philippine revolution broke out on Aug. 26, 1896.
Historian Onofre D. Corpuz, in his two-volume history, The Roots of the Filipino Nation (Aklahi Foundation, Manila, 1989), wrote that this was the profile of the men and women who gave birth to the nation:
“The idea of Filipinos in a union transcending geographical and ethnoliguistic boundaries was first embodied in the community of students in the colleges of Manila; this community had its more developed counterpart later in in the Filipino colony in Europe, made up of young men coming from the various regions back home…the two undertook the campaign to give the name ‘Filipinas’ to the country that they loved and the name ‘Filipinos’ to the people they were working for.”
When the Propaganda Movement began in 1880 in Madrid, Graciano Lopez Jaena was 24, Jose Rizal was 19, Andres Bonifacio was only 17, Emilio Aguinaldo was 11 and Emilio Jacinto was just a boy of five. Only Marcelo H. del Pilar, who edited La Solidaridad, was fairly mature in years, being already 30 when the reform movement was launched.
The point, of course, is that our nation was founded by young people like our young generations today.
It is incredible and awesome to think that our forefathers, in their youth could possess so much knowledge and summon so much courage to bring to life our republic.
Secretary Lorenzana is clearly right when he declares that in order to perpetuate the culture of patriotism and heroism among our people, it is our nation’s responsibility to teach the youth love of country and service to countrymen. He is not mistaken when he says the ROTC will help bring this about.
It was a mistake, we think, for the Congress to have abolished in 2002 the long-established ROTC program as the national policy for citizenship and military training of Filipino youth.
The issue was not fully debated before the legislature committed to such a change of policy.
Since then, there has been extensive second-guessing of the policy change, both within the Congress and in the public and the media at large.
Historically, the ROTC has made a difference in our national life. The program for many decades affected the lives of young Filipino males, especially those who pursued a college education. Lapses in the administration of the program is not a sound reason for killing it.
Today, the ROTC’s revival is a question of civics. Military service is a civic responsibility; it expresses and deepens democratic citizenship. It is an act of patriotism.
This is the why many countries, particularly democracies, mandate that all their citizens, from their youth, should spend some years in military service.
Today, the issue is more compelling for us because as a nation we are now 107 million people, with a pivotal role in economic growth and international affairs.
It is absurd that one freshman senator opposes the idea of compulsory military training; she wants ROTC to be optional.
Really? Should we allow the defense of our country to become a matter of choice?
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