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Not just ROTC, but mandatory military service to strengthen the nation

August 14, 2019

Not just ROTC, but mandatory military service to strengthen the nation 1
RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

I FIND it astonishing that commentators with doctorates in political science who oppose the revival of mandatory college-based military training (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or ROTC), miss one of the most important reasons why this is necessary.

This is the fact that one of the most essential features of sovereign states — the most important social organization in this stage of humanity’s history — is their military. There is no state that doesn’t have a military (except perhaps the Vatican). It’s a no-brainer that the strongest states in the world are those with the strongest military forces. Even the orthodox political science definition of a state is that it is the only entity within a defined territory which has the legitimate use of force — which the military and its cousin the police exercises.

A state’s military force does not just tell the world that its sovereignty is to be respected, thereby strengthening its citizens’ patriotism, and pride in it. Through military service, citizens of one country get to realize deep in their hearts and minds that they are members of a community called the nation-state, which is so important that they can be called to risk their life for it as soldiers. The ROTC is in fact the “lite” version of military conscription, the least demanding way of requiring a citizen to contribute to the nation.

Empirical evidence shows that in the modern era, nations which have become strong in a very short period of time, and whose citizens are inarguably among the most patriotic in the world, are those which have required mandatory military service for its youth on the way to adulthood.

Singapore and South Korea require two years of full-time military service. Israel requires every citizen over the age of 18 to serve in the military for two years and eight months. Even women over 18 are required to do so for two years. (And it didn’t affect “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot’s attractiveness, did it?)

Lottery

Thailand has an interesting system of required military service. At age 21, each Thai male is required to participate in some kind of “lottery” in April. He picks one colored ball from a barrel. If he picks red, he is drafted for two years. If black, he goes home.

Military service is enshrined in the 1993 constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: “Defending the fatherland is the citizen’s sacred duty and noble right. Citizens are duty-bound to perform their military service and participate in building the all-people national defense.” Conscription typically takes place twice annually and service obligation lasts for 18 months (Army, Air Defense), two years (Navy and Air Force). (I cannot, however, verify reports that exemptions are given for educated youth with skills or expertise the government deem to be so important.)

China has a military service law that says that “it is the sacred duty of every citizen of the People’s Republic of China to defend the motherland and resist aggression” and that “it is the honorable duty of citizens of the People’s Republic of China to perform military service.”

Because of its huge population though, China has had enough volunteers and has not been enforcing conscription. Another law though requires students from secondary schools and universities to undergo two weeks of basic military training.

Eschewing this profound reason why military conscription and part-time training are essential to strengthening a state and imbuing its citizens with patriotism, our political leaders scrapped the ROTC in 2002 for really flimsy reasons and political opportunism.

The scrapping of the mandatory ROTC in 2002 under Republic Act 9163 was due to a spineless Congress (led by Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Jose de Venecia) buckling under the outrage over the accidental killing of a UST student undergoing ROTC training. That was such an extreme case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Left lobby

The Left also vigorously lobbied for the scrapping of mandatory ROTC. The government acceded to this demand, not only because the Left provided much of the warm bodies for “EDSA 2” that toppled Estrada, but also because it needed to consolidate its political base after the extra-constitutional accession to power.

The communists of course had been undertaking a vigorous campaign since their emergence in the 1970s for the ROTC’s scrapping, first on the ideological level that this strengthened the State they wanted to topple.

But not only that, the ROTC had been the only well-organized force that the communists’ fronts like the Kabataan Makabayan (KM) had to compete with for “hegemony” in the campus. The UP’s Vanguard Fraternity composed of ROTC officers for example had vigorously opposed the KM, engineering its defeat in elections for the Student Council. Even communist fire-brands in the UP then wouldn’t want to lock horns with Vanguard members, thinking that these people had guns issued to them. In fact, the military often recruited from the ROTC its spies against the communist student organizations.

The ROTC’s absence in school campuses since 2002 gave the communist front organizations all the freedom to undertake their recruitment and propaganda work, unopposed.

With the prospect of military conflict of some kind in the South China Sea, certainly extremely remote but for the first time ever since World War 2 imaginable to us, I would have thought that President Duterte’s move to revive ROTC would be a no-brainer.

Puniest

We have the puniest military in Asia and certainly among claimants to disputed areas in the South China Sea, that is, after Brunei Darussalam with its 400,000 citizens. But with its oil-based wealth, Brunei can probably buy an entire mercenary army in case of war with a neighbor. With our resources so limited to build up a modern army, the very least we can do is to ensure that our youth are trained militarily to fight.

Even mandatory military training — as Singapore, Vietnam and Israel, among others, require of their citizens — should be undertaken here. Of course, it could be only on a limited basis, as many poor Filipinos have been keen on joining the military, as their way out of poverty. Our military wouldn’t have the funds, resources and officers to undertake universal military training of our youth.

I have a well-considered suggestion. Since the cost for our Republic to provide a four-year education for a UP student amounts to nearly a million pesos, it is only fair to require him to serve the nation, even just for a year.

Such a student would have to undertake mandatory military service, on top of their ROTC training. Those who train to become doctors at the UP, the cost of which has been estimated to be P2 million, should be required to undergo another year of military service.

I would think that with their tax-exempt status, students from the richest Catholic schools, mainly Ateneo and the like, should also be required to undergo similar service and training. Some reason could be found for also requiring such military service and training for students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, which since the 1970s (then Philippine College of Commerce) has been a recruiting ground for the Communist Party.

Mandatory ROTC and a selected military conscription would strengthen the Republic. (Can you image the youth of our elite, many of whom go to the UP and Ateneo, being imbued with patriotism?)

This has been proven by Israel and our neighbors in Asia. It will also help stop the communist recruitment of our gullible youth to become casualties in a useless cause.

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

Twitter: @bobitiglao

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