By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy
LAST WEEK, I cited the plan of General Douglas MacArthur to train a reserve force of 100,000 men in ten military districts to be ready in 1946 when the Philippines had become independent from the United States and US forces left the country. We will then have a spread of 10,000 reservists per district with five regiments each; five battalions per regiment.
Although the United States projected that a war in the Pacific will be initiated by the expanding Japanese empire, the Philippines was not prepared because “Japan would not dare” and the US was then a neutral country. When the Japanese attacked in 1941, we had a small reserve of one incomplete regiment in each district.
In August 1941 there were strong indications that Japan will attack after it entered into an alliance with Germany and Italy. However America was not involved in the European conflict except to “lease” military hardware to England and help the China that was invaded by Japan in July 1937. Pacifist opinion was dominant in the US.
With the rising tension between the US and Japan due to the US economic embargo, US President Franklin Roosevelt issued in August 1941 an order mobilizing the Philippine reserve force. The reservists in Negros (the whole island was one military district, the 7th MD) were called to duty in four mobilization centers: Tanjay, Mambukal, Magallon and Binalbagan.
They were composed of ROTC basic graduates and boot camp trainees. The battalion and company level commanders were ROTC reserve officers. For lack of men in Luzon, the only regiment we had by November 1941, the 71st Regiment, was ordered to northern Luzon to reinforce that sector. The Japanese were expected to invade there. But the 71st was not fully complemented. It had only three battalions hastily trained and inadequately equipped for combat.
When the Philippines surrendered, the American officers laid down their arms. Most Filipino officers and men outside Bataan and Corregidor refused to capitulate and resorted to guerrilla war as prescribed in the defense plan of the Philippines. The rest, as is always said, is history.
The point or lesson here is the need for continuous training of our youth under the ROTC program or any other program for the same purpose, either ROTC or cadre. Whether there is a war, a threat of war or none, preparation for any attack is a primary constitutional duty of the government and the citizens, regardless of status or gender.
The ROTC or Citizen Army concept is the best and the cheapest way to create a standing army to defend the nation. In the ROTC program, the students pay for their training and uniforms with a small budget from the Armed Forces of the Philippines primarily for the compensation of officers conducting the training. The school also provides space and office facilities and much more to augment government budget.
This is not so with the cadre training where the government pays for everything, from uniforms to billeting, allowances, medical care, etc. for several months. To create army through cadre training is therefore expensive.
Our budgetary capability prevents us from training the necessary manpower that can be readily mobilized. We are already an independent nation and can rely on no one else. Sure we have a treaty with the United States but we are not in control of its forces and the US will act mainly for its own interest.
China poses as our greatest threat, the Chinese protestations notwithstanding. The incursions in Philippine waters and bullying of our fishermen are not acts of a friendly country. China knows we have no means of resisting its invasion forces. Thus it gets away with bullying. The only way, I wrote last week, is to make the invaders’ occupation expensive and untenable.
The position of politicians like Chiz Escudero and communist fellow travellers play right into the hands of China and will embolden their leaders to make the same mistake of Japan in 1942. The Imperial Army gave the Philippines 51 days of resistance, but Japan was wrong. It failed to reckon with the Citizen Army that waged a guerrilla war for three years until Japan surrendered.
The ROTC is the core of the Citizens Army concept that properly implemented as in Israel, will create an army that can be mobilized in a few days, not months.