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Disiplina? Trabaho Ko ‘Yan Bilang Magulang: Parents Sound Off On Mandatory ROTC Training
  • On July 25, 2022, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. gave his first State of The Nation Address held at the Batasang Pambansa. 

    In his speech he told lawmakers that he favors Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) as a requirement for Grade 11 and Grade 12 students.

    “The aim is to motivate, train, organize, and mobilize students for national defense preparedness, including disaster preparedness and capacity for building risk-related situation,” he said.

    Vice President and Department of Education Secretary Sara Duterte has also expressed in the past that she will be pushing for mandatory military service for Filipinos aged 18 years old.

    Currently, students can choose between ROTC or civic welfare training, says Reportr.

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    What parents think about mandatory ROTC

    Parents from Smart Parenting Village were quick to pick up on President Marcos Jr.’s points and one parent asked: How do you feel about ROTC? 

    As of this writing, the question has received 257 comments from Filipino parents. And their takes were varied. Some said yes, some said no, and some who said yes with conditions. There were even some who underwent ROTC themselves.

    Here’s what parents from SPV said.

    Duty, discipline, love for country

    Parents who said yes often cited the value of discipline. That children would benefit from the discipline and rigorous training ROTC is often associated with.

    One mom said, “I'm a product of good ACP and ROTC when I was in school. I'm okay with it. I gained a lot of grit, discipline, and loyalty.


    She was quick to follow up with her knowledge of instances of abuse in the past, and that thankfully, this was not her experience.

    'I'm okay with it. I gained a lot of grit, discipline, and loyalty.' –Smart Parenting Village mom

    “I know there are a lot of corrupt ROTC groups. I’m happy my commandants back then were really good. If this is to be implemented, I hope it's monitored well so the objectives will be obtained,” she said.

    Another mom recognized the good intention and benefit provided by the program. “The intention is good, but it really boils down to how they will implement this. As a parent, I'll never support this unless the safety and protection of my children are guaranteed.

    RELATED: A Good Chance Of A Better Life: What President Bongbong Marcos Jr. Said About Our Kids’ Future

    She reminded in her comment why ROTC was previously abolished in 2002, which involved the death of a University of Santo Tomas cadet officer who exposed corruption in the unit.

    Other parents gave a resounding yes with no reservations citing duty, discipline, and love for country as products of ROTC. There were also parents who said children today are “soft” and “marshmallowy” and need to “grow bones”.

    The same commenter pointed out that ROTC training is more than a matter of discipline, it breeds patriotism and allows for disaster preparedness.

    No to power tripping, abuse, find other programs instead

    A number of parents answered a strong ‘no’, including Aileen Baculi-Estoy, mom of one, who was a high school student in UST when the officer was killedin 2001. 

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    "If ROTC is really about promoting bravery, integrity, and discipline, why was there an issue of corruption? Can the government guarantee that it will be corruption-free this time around?” she asks.

    An anonymous mom of an 11-year-old boy gave a similar answer, “Not until they do something with the issues, I am not for it. It was abolished for a reason.

    'Not until they do something with the issues, I am not for it. It was abolished for a reason.' –Smart Parenting Village mom

    She adds, “Right now, Mandatory ROTC is the least of their concerns… ang pagiging makabayan is not something that is learned here...neither is discipline. She says these two traits often given as benefits of the training should be learned at home.

    “Makabayan and discipline is learned at home and should be carried out in school. Japan is a good example of this.

    She adds, “They should focus on fixing the current problems in our education system first. Education crisis is already slapping us in the face…. address that problem first… wag gumawa ng panibagong problema.”

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    Camille Angeles, a mother of one asked the parents in the group, “If as a parent, ang reason mo for saying yes to mandatory ROTC is para madisiplina ang kabataan, isn't that your job as a parent?

    She ended her first sentence with an smiling face with cold sweat emoji. She continues, “Napalaki ng room for abuse sa military services noon, mapa CAT at ROTC. Although meron pa namang matitinong mga officers.

    'If as a parent, ang reason mo for saying yes to mandatory ROTC is para madisiplina ang kabataan, isn't that your job as a parent?' –Camille Angeles, mom

    Camille on the other hand does not generalize that all ROTC officer are abusive. “If the sole purpose of having ROTC as mandatory is to teach military awareness and preparedness, then go ahead. Pero can we assure na walang magiging abuse at casualties?” Camille asks. 


    Former officer and mother of three children April Reyes shared her experience. “Used to be an officer and I've seen how ordinary students are treated during training. I don't want my kids to go through harassment and power tripping.

    She adds that if disaster preparedness is the goal, there are other avenues that are not prone to abuse. “I prefer basic life-saving courses like Red Cross training. Mas practical and hindi nakaka-kaba.”

    Don’t make it mandatory

    Many parents in the group also pointed out that it’s the nature of ‘mandatory’ that is a cause for concern. Children should be allowed to choose if they wish to undergo training, or if they would like to serve the country through military training.

    Similarly, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said during a post-SONA interview that the youth can be provided other ways of serving.

    “Ito'y isang programa mula sa nakaraan na napatunayan hindi iyon ang optimal kasi iyong mga kabataan natin, may iba't ibang paraan para mahalin at magsilbi kay inang bayan,” she said.

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    “Iyong mga ibang kabataang Filipino gustong maglingkod kay inang bayan sa iba pang mga paraan, ‘wag natin silang pipilitin,” 

    If self-defense is the benefit of interest, many martial arts or sports programs can provide children with self-defense training, points out Smart Parenting Village members.

    Some parents pointed out that military training is not for everyone, which is why they do not agree with mandatory military training.


    Culture of abuse

    A parent and former CAT officer candidly shared her own experience. “It was fun, no doubt. Did it prepare us for war? Definitely not. Were there abuses? Absolutely.

    “I was an officer and I saw with my own eyes how power-tripping was done. When you realize that you're powerful enough, even at such a young age, there's a tendency that you will abuse it.

    'Did I become an abuser? Sadly, yes... Not so proud of what I did, looking back.' –Mom and former CAT officer

    The mom goes on to paint a graphic picture of the abuses and bullying she witnessed, whether between fellow officers or from those who hold positions toward cadet officers. One incident she shared was a female officer being made to drink water mixed with the sputum of the commanding officer.

    She says she shared these stories to make her point, that it’s a program that is prone to abuse. The anonymous mom gets vulnerable and admits she was also guilty of abusing others.

    “Did I become an abuser? Sadly, yes. ‘Yung mag-uutos ka nang walang kapararakan but fortunately, I did not go beyond that. Not so proud of what I did, looking back.

    “Pero kasi, culture siya eh. Knowing that other officers do it, lalakas ang loob mo to do it as well. Iba ang peer pressure sa loob.

    She says that when she had the opportunity to enlist for ROTC in college, she chose not to because she no longer wanted to take part in the abuse of power. 

    “I thought, I felt powerful enough to abuse my power when I was a CAT officer. Ayokong makain ng katiting na power na yun kapag nag ROTC na ako.”


    What can parents do today?

    As the anonymous mom pointed out, abuse is a culture. For many of today’s Filipino parents, it was the culture we were raised in. Many continue to see this even in the professional setting.

    Perhaps the issue of mandatory ROTC can lead us to ask ourselves, is position interchangeable with power? Or do we want leadership to be expressed another way?

    In our families, does being a parent mean we become infallible? Or do we want the picture of leading our children to look like service? 

    The home is where all the good values we want to teach our children must begin. The programs and systems should merely reinforce.

    Can obedience and discipline only be taught with an iron fist? Or is there another way that does not require breaking before repairing?

    In our parenting, are we the first to introduce this culture that we hope our children no longer need to face? Does our online behavior make it look like bullying is okay if we do not personally know the receiver?

    Our community of parents gave a good reminder: The home is where all the good values we want to teach our children must begin. The programs and systems should merely reinforce.

    And so we ask ourselves, how can we teach our children duty, love for country, and discipline? Because our voice and example–no matter how it feels in the moment–will always be the loudest guiding voice to our child.

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