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THE R.O.T.C. : EXCISING A CANCER (An Official Statement of the University Belt Consortium)

(An Official Statement of the University Belt Consortium)

The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program is supposed to realize the constitutional mandate to develop a strong civilian base to supplement the professional military in the nation's defense system. Made compulsory for male students in colleges and universities, it is designed to initiate young men in the rudiments of soldiership, instilling in them discipline and correct deportment, like true officers and gentlemen.

But many are of the opinion that the ROTC has seen better days.  Worse, there is the growing perception that the program has steadily deteriorated through the years.  Many young men look at it as a waste of time and money; they would rather devote for study and rest the long hours of those weekends that they are made to take up the program through four semesters of college.  In an era of spiraling costs, they even wonder if the training they receive is worth the money they spend for ROTC.

Considering, too, the compulsory drawn-out and over-regimented two-year program, in which the student allegedly receives little instruction and benefit but much hardship and harassment, it is no surprise that reports of irregularities and abuses are rampant and persistent.  Reports cover collection of unauthorized fees, bribery, and extortion.  These reports reflect the anomalous situation in which the military administers the ROTC program in the school while the school administration does not have any say on how that program is run.  Since invariably the ROTC is the male student's first brush with the military, the irregularities and abuses he sees or experiences while taking part in the program become his first - and lasting - impression of the military: corrupt, abusive, and hiding behind the veneer of the nation's defense system to prey on defenseless civilians.  This impression does not necessarily do justice to the military at large.

In December last year, Mark Welson Chua, a cadet officer of the ROTC program of the University of Santo Tomas, together with another officer and several cadets, filed a complaint of irregularities with the Department of National Defense (DND) against the UST Department of Military Science and Tactics.  The DND gave due course to the complaint and later relieved the entire brass of UST-DMST.  It was arguably the first time that a formal complaint had been lodged against the handlers of the ROTC program in the University Belt.  It was also arguably the first time that a school's top DMST brass was relieved.

Even before the euphoria of the victory of justice and fair play subsided, Mark Welson Chua was kidnapped last March.  his hands were bound, his face was gagged with packaging tape, and his body dumped in the Pasig River, where it was found days later.  To date, two dismissed members of the UST-DMST have been arrested for the killing.

Without pre-empting the result of the trial, we believe that the sordid episode is just a symptom of the cancer gnawing at the ROTC system.  We believe that it is time to strike at the heart of the matter.  We believe the solution is nothing short of surgery.  Specifically, we ask that the ROTC program in colleges and universities be abolished.  It should not be made compulsory and a requirement for graduation in college.  An additional reason for abolishing the ROTC is the fact that by requiring Military Science for graduation, in the end, it is the Commandant who determines who to graduate, a practice that encroaches on the academic freedom of universities.

There must be a way in which the constitutional end for the formation of a strong civilian complement to national defense can be realized without abetting a system that has exhibited not only wear and tear but also squalid signs of corruption and knavery.  To be sure, changes in technology and defense philosophies call for a reinvention of approaches to fulfill the constitutional mandate, approaches which will be more responsive to the realities not only of national defense, but of national development goals and needs as well.  The ROTC program, as presently structured, has not - and cannot - achieve the objectives for which it was established.  To allow the program to continue would be ultimately self-destructive.

The ROTC program would have been left to neglect a decaying system if not for the courageous act exemplified by Mark Welson Chua.  For this, we commend his bravery and sacrifice.  We strongly condemn the brutal slaying to which he had been subjected.  We also sympathize with his bereaved family and echo their call to the authorities to expedite the delivery of justice for his senseless killing.

The University Belt Consortium is heartened by the deep expression of serious concern coming from the higher educational institutions particularly the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU) and the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), which have shared their own sentiments regarding the malady besetting the ROTC.

We are encouraged by this display of solicitude.  Because of this, we are further inspired to carry on the fight, which one of our beloved students had initiated and paid for with his life.  It is with fervency and a deep desire for change that we make an appeal to all colleges and universities in the Philippines to join us in this crusade to eradicate a rotting system and excise a cancer that gnaws on the lives of the young and the innocent.


Undersigned by the following:
President, Adamson University
President, Manuel L. Quezon University
President, Arellano University
President, Far Eastern University
President, National University
President, Centro Escolar University
President, University of the East
President, University of Manila
Rector, University of Santo Tomas

Sent through email by: Joaquin Gamboa