(Last of Three Parts)
The current state of the Reserve Force development in the AFP is in a snail-paced progress. A major factor contributing to this slow development is the continuous decline of the manpower of our reserve forces primarily brought about by the decreasing number of college students who take up the ROTC component of the NTSP. At the rate that is going, it is no longer surprising that our country will have inadequate reservists to call to render military service as the need for national defense arises, whether as response to any national security threat or national emergency. Recently, some members of the House of Representatives have revived proposals to make the Reserve Officers Training Corps mandatory again for college students citing the need for a pool of officers to provide military service as warranted by national security circumstances especially with the mounting tensions over regional waters and the recurring natural and man-made calamities that our country has been experiencing lately. However, a clashing bill was also filed by a lawmaker from the leftist block of the House of Representatives seeking for the abolition of the ROTC citing that “while the people are duty bound to defend the state, providing military training, institutional or material support, should not be the responsibility of civilian educational institutions.” But this particular bill is missing the whole point of the ROTC program since it is not only focus on military training but on a greater goal of inculcating to the youth the sense of patriotism and discipline, security awareness, and social responsibility. It fails to appreciate the relevance of ROTC program not only during war but most especially during peace time.
It is high time for the whole of government to immediately address the issue on the need for a robust Reserve Force vis-à-vis national defense preparedness. This will start with a reinvigorated ROTC program which shall be mandatory for all college students particularly in state universities and colleges. Although this will be easier said than done, but it has to start somewhere by making the program more relevant to the changing security environment and should be designed to be more fun and exciting to the adventurous youth of today. The ROTC program should offer more financial incentives such as better scholarship options and balanced military and non-military instructions to entice more students to join the program. An interactive type of instruction through case studies and video clips of success stories of ROTC units not only here but also from other countries’ experiences will be more interesting to ROTC cadets who will also undergo hands-on practical applications of their training. These are just some of the inputs for a reinvigorated ROTC program. Of course, other systemic problems like administration, logistics, and funding should also need to be reassessed in a revived mandatory ROTC program. Better yet, a new slogan would be a fitting marketing line to promote a mandatory ROTC program, something like… ROTC: It’s more fun in the Armed Forces of the Philippines!