The farce behind ROTC revival in the name of  ‘love of country’

It will be one of the first laws expected to pass in 2023. And like many of our laws that require submission by the ordinary citizenry, it stands on a slapstick history when those in power and influence had exempted themselves from it.

The official line being, “it will build up discipline and values, and a sense of patriotism among the next generation,” already begins on the wrong footing.

Rodrigo Duterte had certified the ROTC bill as urgent yet he himself evaded it using perjury, bribery and falsification of records when he was a college student. Expect more of that practice to flourish under a corrupt-laden military organization. Let us recall his scandal of a story so typical of political double-speak of not practicing what he preaches, and then cringe at his brazenness of circumventing the law:

“In the year he was supposed to graduate, Duterte said he went to Camp Aguinaldo where he was told by a registrar staff that he won’t be able to graduate unless he completes the ROTC program. He was told that he would only be exempted if he has tuberculosis or is handicapped.”

“So I said, there are many people with TB here. I went to San Lazaro hospital. The fools were all lined up.  It was so noisy, they were coughing in unison! Each had their own sputum on the ground.”

“So the young Duterte approached one of the patients.”

“I told one of them, ‘Come here. Use this name, Rodrigo Duterte, they’ll put it in the X-ray. I’ll give you P1,000.”

“The man supposedly did as he was told and 3 days later, Duterte went back to get a copy of the man’s X-ray. To show his appreciation, he even gave his unwitting accomplice a P500 tip.”

“Duterte went to his college and presented the X-ray to the staff.”

“The school personnel who received the X-ray was so convinced that he even supposedly told Duterte, ‘That’s why you are too thin. Get out of here! Get out of here!”

Sara Duterte wants mandatory ROTC for all Filipinos aged 18 years old. Like Bato dela Rosa, she also uses the buzzwords “patriotism, love of country.” Her advisers (if she listens to them) should tell her that those values do not thrive under a culture of hypocrisy.

Dela Rosa will have to exert hard to make us forget the corruption scandals in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. One of the chiefs-of- staff who received the so-called retirement gift called the “paba-on”  (P50 million in his case) was even appointed by the father Duterte as secretary of the environment and natural resources. Impunity is one of the things that do not teach love of country.

As recent as the last Duterte administration, the military establishment was hounded by perceptions of corruption in the purchase of equipment. Why would our 18-year olds patronize a system that does not even have the discipline to clean its ranks of stealing taxpayers’ money?

Love of country and patriotism are best taught when it is seen lived as examples among national leaders. It is taught when leaders do not steal, when they turn themselves accountable at the slightest hint of corruption, when they subject themselves to the same laws that subject the rest of the ordinary people especially the poor. It is best taught when privileged leaders spend time in jail when they themselves have broken the laws.

How can the young develop love of country from legislators who enrich themselves with pork barrel money? How is patriotism instilled when they see elected leaders like the Dutertes turn sycophantic to China at the expense of our sovereign territories occupied without a wimp from them? How is discipline to be expected when they see lying before the people as the official behavior of our elected officials?

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.