It looks like Congress is all set to pass Senate Bill 2034, the Reserve Officers Training Corps Act.
As a product of the old four-year ROTC program with subsequent assignment as an ROTC Acting Commandant, I am one of the many who support the revival of the ROTC program.
However, based on media reports attributed to Senator Bato de la Rosa, the Senate’s principal sponsor, the proposed ROTC law might turn out to be a chopsuey program. This is because the good Senator wants to add so many non-military subjects like moral and personality development and others, not to mention disaster response and human rights.
He also wants foreigners to be included in the program.
These added requirements could significantly dilute the reason why the ROTC Act is being passed in the first place.
The way I understand it, the principal reason why we are reviving the ROTC program is to train people to form part of our military reserve force.
The only remaining question is whether we want the revived ROTC program to be like the old one or make it a hybrid program which seems to be what Senator de la Rosa and some lawmakers want.
Congress must make up its mind on this.
It would make a lot more sense to stay as close as possible to the old ROTC program which was basically a military training program.
Before the abolition of the old ROTC, graduates of the course were just one source of our reserve force.
The other was the 21-year-old old bracket, regularly called for military training to serve 18 months of military service.
Since the AFP is no longer calling male citizens for training to form the core of our reserve force, I worry about the quality of the reserve force that will come out of the ROTC program with so many added learning requirements which might no longer be necessary.
This is because I have seen the metamorphosis of ROTC training from the 1960s up to the time that it was abolished.
ROTC graduates from the 1950s and 60s used real firearms in their training.
They, however, were not given the chance to use live ammunitions for target practice.
Beginning in the late 1970s or early 1980s, the AFP withdrew all the real firearms from all ROTC armories for fear of being raided by the CPP/NPA and other subversives and were replaced by wooden rifles.
This was when ROTC training became a joke.
It was actually good the program was eventually abolished and replaced by the National Service Training Program we have today.
So, the question now is what sort of training will these future ROTC cadets be undergoing?
A few months ago, I remember the AFP telling the Senate the kind of problems that they will encounter if the program will be revived because of the huge administrative and logistical requirements needed for the program.
Senator de la Rosa reacted by lecturing those military officers who attended the Senate hearing by telling them not to worry because Congress will provide all the necessary tools for the AFP to be able to carry out the mandate of the law.
Congress, however, should not take what the AFP is saying lightly.
This is because the preparatory work involved will take a considerable amount of time to execute if we want to produce well trained individuals.
This is especially true if Congress will insist on the many added training requirements. Otherwise, it would be tantamount to committing a crime if we train these students with wooden rifles then send them to war in case of emergency only to be slaughtered.
Where, for instance, would the AFP get all the real firearms to train the tens or hundreds of thousands of college students?
How about the military personnel who will handle the training?
Make no mistakes about it, this is a monumental undertaking if followed the way the good Senator wants it.
It is for this reason Congress should maintain an open mind.
Perhaps, this is a good time to remind Congress that in war, not everyone has to join in the fighting.
War as we are seeing in Ukraine is also evolving and Congress must take all these things into consideration in crafting a law that will end up to be exactly what the country needs. Otherwise, all the effort might just go to waste.
As the name of the law suggests, it is a military training program.
And this is to be done once a week on Sundays for about four or five hours.
The time allotted for training is therefore not much.
Adding so many non-military requirements will just defeat the very purpose of the law. Making ROTC mandatory for all students in all colleges and universities might not be the best course of action either.
Why not limit ROTC to state colleges and universities as some are suggesting but include those private schools that want to join the program?
For those who do not want ROTC, the NSTP can be maintained but made tougher so that no one gets a free ride.
That way, both critics and proponents of the ROTC program get something.
Most important of all, there is a choice.