A Philippine Citizens Army

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

CONGRESS will be adjourning and despite the certification by President Duterte for the passage of a law to reinstitute the original mandatory military training of the youth in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, chances are the proposal will have to wait for the new Congress.

There has not been much debate on this matter, however. In fact ROTC is still offered on a voluntary basis with the students having two other choices but these courses deal mainly with civic work, like cleaning the surroundings, the only one I saw being conducted by the school. Maybe the courses have other activities but I have not seen anything to suggest that the students are being trained how to defend the country.

In a television interview, departing Senator Chiz Escudero said he is opposed to the expansion of the ROTC to become once more a required subject in the collegiate level or at present the 11th and 12th Grades. These levels are similar to the first two years of college in the old curriculum when ROTC was mandatory as to deny graduation for failure to complete this two-year basic course.

Escudero proposed that instead of military training to inculcate patriotism, the educational system should teach history and allied subjects but not military instruction and training. I think he was referring to physical activity involving drills and ceremonies, using the rifle and other weapons of war and other matters in military science and tactics. His prescription for training in patriotism is to stick to the classroom and books.

I think the senator has no idea that war can come to our shores. We have gone through that with disastrous consequences so that when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1941, we had no army of our own to defend the country. We relied on the United States to protect us because the expected war with Japan “was not our war.”

That is similar to our pacifist senator and their kind who think that this country will not be at war or if there is one, we will not get embroiled in it. The problem often is that while we do not want to go to war, others think otherwise and in fact build that mentality to weaken or discourage us from preparing to defend ourselves. People like Escudero want to just teach patriotism in the classroom and nobody will attack us because we are patriotic.

We do not want to go to war with China, for instance, but we know that China has covetous eyes for us and has even slowly but steadily cutting up part of our territory and at the same time giving us loans and patting us at the back.

Fortunately we had a president in 1935, Manuel Quezon who believed that we cannot depend on the US once we were independent. We must have a Filipino standing army that can make a powerful invader pay a high price. On the other hand, we cannot carry the heavy burden of a huge army duly equipped to fight a war.

The result was the formation of the ROTC to train the citizens as an army of reservists ready to respond in case of emergency. The idea, formulated by General Douglas MacArthur who just retired from the US Army as its Chief of Staff, created a Citizens Army. There will only be a small regular or full time soldiers but a large reserve.

The Citizens Army or reservists were to be graduates from ROTC for those who studied in college and those who completed cadre or boot camp training for those who had not gone to college. At the time college courses were few and for many a distant dream so they were called and trained for six months in military camps.

Note that ROTC refers to “officers” but the officers are those who completed the entire four years and then commissioned by the President as Third Lieutenants, then the lowest officer’s rank. Now the lowest being commissioned is 2nd Lieutenant.

The MacArthur plan was to train a reserve force of 100,000 men in ten military districts by 1946 – 10,000 per district with five regiments each. When the Japanese attacked in 1941, we had a small reserve of one incomplete regiment in each district.

We will continue next week; this issue needs a national consensus.