HISTORY OF ROTC
This is the story of Philippine Reserve
Officer Training Corps.
During the Spanish colonial years, there was a training
course, similar to what is presently known as ROTC, at the University of Santo
Tomas. In 1762, Father Domingo Collantes, O.P., Rector and Chancellor of
UST, with the aid of a sergeant of the Royal Spanish Army, organized a
battalion of young students for military training. They were trained to
fight invading English troops of some 7,000 men, fresh from thirteen
warships bivouacked in Madras.
These boys, displaying courage and commendable spirit in the face of a real
war against a superior enemy, won for the university the award of "Royal
Cedula" from the King of Spain, who conferred on them the title of
"Regalia", and the seal of loyalty: "Muy Leal", for participating in the
fight against the British.
To this day the "Muy Leal" crest remains a part of the UST
ROTC seal, and was adopted by the unit's ROTC fraternity as its motto.
To most Philippine military historians, real ROTC in the Philippines did not
start until 1912, when the Philippine Constabulary started conducting
military instruction at the University of the Philippines. Following
representations made by the U.P. Board of Regents to the United States War
Department through the Governor General, university received the services of
a U.S. Army officer as a professor of Military Science. Thus the first ROTC
unit in the country was established in the University of the Philippines and
instruction started on July 3, 1922.
Subsequently, the National University, Ateneo de Manila, the Liceo de Manila, and the Colegio de San Juan de Letran formed their respective ROTC units. These units remained independent of each other until 1936, when the Office of the Superintendent, ROTC Units, Philippine Army, was activated to administer, supervise and control, as well as to supply, all ROTC units that existed throughout the country.
Commonwealth Act No. 1, commonly known as the National Defense Act, provided the legal basis for the conduct of ROTC instruction. It stated that "at such colleges and universities as the President may designate, there shall be established and maintained Reserve Officers Training Corps units of such arm and service as he shall specify, where every physically fit student shall be required to pursue a course of military instruction . . ."
(Editor: It should be noted that the same act also established the Philippine Military Academy)
In 1939, President Manuel L. Quezon issued Executive Order No.207 to implement the National Defense Act. It made ROTC a compulsory course at all colleges and universities having a total enrollment of one hundred students or more. Instruction began upon receipt of notification from the Chief of Staff, Philippine Army.
ROTC: The foundation of an army
The challenges in organizing the Common wealth-era Philippine Army provided the impetus for the establishment of ROTC. As described by Louis Morton in his book "The Fall of the Philippines":
"One of the greatest difficulties encountered in the organization of the Philippine Army was the creation of a satisfactory officer corps. in the Constabulary were Filipino officers with excellent training and experience, but their interests lay in law enforcement rather than military training. Some of the best officers came from the Philippine Scouts; these men rapidly became senior officers in the Philippine Army. The great problem was to train junior officers to command the training camps and reserve units once these were formed. Since no graduates could be expected from the projected military academy at Baguio for four years the most promising men in each semiannual class of reservists were selected for an additional six months' training as noncommissioned officers. The best of these were chosen for officer training and became 3d lieutenants upon graduation from Officer Candidate School. Senior ROTC units in colleges and universities were established to provide additional junior reserve officers."
By 1941 there were 33 colleges and universities throughout the country that maintained ROTC units. All however, were closed with the onset of World War II.
The war saw ROTC products in action for the first time. Cadets from different Metro Manila units took part in the defense of Bataan; in the Visayas, 45% of the 75th Infantry Regiment of the US Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) were ROTC cadets of Silliman University; and after the surrender of last American bastion in the archipelago, volunteers from the Philippine Military Academy and various ROTC units formed the Hunter's ROTC Guerillas, which took part in the resistance movement during the Japanese occupation.
ROTC in the Philippines lay dormant until September 13, 1946, when Headquarters Philippine Army issued a General Order reviving pre-war units. When the Philippine Army became the Armed Forces of the Philippines on December 23, 1950, the Philippines was divided into four Military Areas. ROTC units operating within these areas fell under the supervision of their respective Area Commanders.
On February 8, 1967, President Marcos rescinded Executive Order No.207 of 1939, and promulgated Executive Order No.59. The EO made ROTC a mandatory course at all colleges and universities and other institutions with an enrollment of 250 male students.
A noteworthy development during the Marcos years was a program called the Rainbow Rangers – Sunday Soldiers. The Metro Manila-only unit provided an alternative to ceremony-centric conventional ROTC training, and was one of the earliest attempts to address inadequacies in the ROTC program. The UP ROTC formed the RR – SS on September 15, 1968, under the watchful eye of then Captain (later Brigadier General) Benjamin Vallejo. The unit included students from other schools, such as long time rival UST ROTC.
Trainees, who were all volunteers, were subjected to a more aggressive, combat-oriented, training regimen that exposed them to small-unit tactics, unconventional warfare, and home defense techniques. To add to the realism, the RRs were given access to real weapons.
Though based in Manila, it saw action in places as far as Mindanao. The unit formed the backbone of the “Liberator Battalion”, that took part in a 3-week peacekeeping operation in the Lanao provinces during the November elections in 1971. Members of the battalion reportedly earned 9 citations for bravery during the operation.
For the most part, training was conducted at the University of the Philippines. Towards the end of the unit's life, the venue was moved to the Metropolitan Citizen Military Training Command (MCMTC) compound. The unit was disbanded circa 1983, after General Vallejo’s retirement.
The ROTC Crisis of 2001 was arguably the single most significant event in post-Martial Law ROTC history. Its impact on the nature of the program was dramatically unique.
Discontent over ROTC -- its content, conduct, the competence of its training staff and the corruption that often plagued its individual units -- had been well known for years. Casual surfing of Filipino student websites often reveal short essays or articles about the perceived pointlessness of the program. Student groups also occasionally took up the matter in their roster of grievances.
Politicians were keenly aware of this reservoir of resentment, and periodically came out with bills, resolutions, or even just simple press statements declaring their intention to abolish ROTC; keeping alive hopes that ROTC would one day be finally abolished.
Lip-service efforts to change the program were made. One of which was the Expanded ROTC program which provided a Civil Welfare service option; little, however, was done to implement it.
Things came to a head when the often repeated officer's training joke "squealer must die" took on a new meaning at the University of Santo Tomas -- the cradle of school-based military education in the Philippines. In what is widely regarded as retaliation for a corruption expose that he made with a fellow cadet, Cadet Sergeant Major Mark Welson Chua was brutally murdered, allegedly by members of the UST ROTCU training staff.
He was reportedly abducted in March 15, and his corpse was found in a river beside the Jones Bridge in Escolta three days later. The Manila Regional Trial Court handed down the death penalty to a fellow cadet three years later.
The incident turned 2001 into a year of national anti-ROTC protest. Added to the normal chorus of student groups, who now had a martyr to rally around, were the voices of University and College administrators -- lending a level of credibility to the movement that it hitherto lacked. The University Belt Consortium was the first group of educators to publish a call to address the ROTC issue. Shortly thereafter, they were followed by a group of Cebuano educators.
ROTC formations in certain prominent Universities were rocked by cadet walk-outs. These were inspired by "Abolish!", a coalition of organizations including the League of Filipino Students, National Union of Students in the Philippines, the College Editors Guild, Student Christian Movement, Kalipunan ng Kabataang Kristyano sa Pilipinas, and Anakbayan.
Another group, the Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP) -- composed of Akbayan and the Student Council Association of the Philippines -- went on a different tack, focusing instead on parliamentary approaches to the matter.
Congress did not take long to take up the legal challenge. No less than seventeen bills and resolutions were generated -- in both houses of Congress -- in response to the protests. Most mentioned Mark Welson Chua in their text, acknowledging his death as the catalyst for reform.
Republic Act 9163, or the National Service Training Program (NSTP), was Congress' answer to the clamor for changes in the ROTC program. Signed into law on January 23, 2002, it removed ROTC as a prerequisite for graduation for all male college students, and substituted it with NSTP. Furthermore, women were no longer exempt from national service -- accomplishment of the NSTP is now a requirement for both genders.
The new program provided all students with two options to ROTC: Literacy Training Service and Civic Welfare Service. Due to the non-military character of the alternative programs, the National Service Reserve Corps was created to accommodate the graduates of these programs. ROTC graduates, on the other hand, went to the Citizen's Armed Force -- in accordance with the provisions of the AFP Reservist Act (R.A. 7077).
Full implementation of the program was scheduled for school year 2002 - 2003.