“These people came here with the sole purpose of spreading peace. So I don’t see any violence. They have noble intentions. I welcome them.”

The young police lieutenant was talking about the Holy Christian Crusaders. That is indeed a noble-sounding name, but they are more colloquially known as the Tadtads (chop-chop) because they chop the heads off of their enemies, suspected and red-tagged New People’s Army sympathizers, with their machetes. This was a proxy war where they acted as military subalterns and given protection by the Philippine Army.

The young lieutenant was Ronald dela Rosa and the video footage was from the award-winning Canadian documentary “A Rustling of Leaves.” Dela Rosa was then operating in his hometown of Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur. It was 1988. That he did not see any violence was a lie. The Tadtads then had just been responsible for the El Dorado Killings.

To understand the now senator dela Rosa and his rabidly wild proposition for mandatory ROTC is to go back to his contextual origins, his dalliance with murderous outlaws (hence his laying the foundation for the equally murderous Tokhang for a bloodthirsty tyrant like Rodrigo Duterte). Like his beloved political benefactor Sara Duterte who wants to be president in 2028, we can be sure how a mandatory ROTC will be another tool for the scapegoating of the innocent, the persecution of activists, and the militarization of sacred academic freedom space.

Rodrigo Duterte was the first to urge Congress in 2018 to revive the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, threatening that he would issue an executive order if Congress did not budge. He said the ROTC would “instill patriotism and love of country.”

The predicate was always: “if the country will be attacked.” Indonesia and Vietnam were never attacked by the great bully China for standing up to Chinese intrusions in their territorial waters. In contrast, the Philippines under Duterte was a wimp before Xi Jin Ping. Do we want to have a repeat of that pushover foreign policy under a Sara presidency? This early she has even addressed the Chinese national day in sycophantic Mandarin no matter how broken. The things that fascists do.

Love of country was in fact the fundamental factor absent in the abolished ROTC. There was evidence of corruption, bullying, abuse of authority, and then murder. Mark Welson Chua, whose body was later found floating in the Pasig River in 2001, was the UST student who first exposed the ROTC irregularities. “Irregularities” is a bland description. What Chua attested to in his complaint which many other students had signed, described a military training program marked by perversity and sadism. Chua’s body was wrapped in a carpet, his face covered in masking tape and his hands tied. ROTC cadet officers were convicted for the crime.

I belong to the ROTC generation, two years in college freshman and sophomore years. One day I had to report to ROTC headquarters in the school campus. One is told to knock, and then roar the entreaty, “Sir may I enter, sir!” The door was half-ajar. There behind it was the battalion commander in his uniform, in an uncompromising carnal position with his cadet sponsor girlfriend. This was inside the ROTC office, while the students were being drilled and insulted under the heat of the noonday sun. It was not love of country that I saw there.

I join the chorus began here by my colleague Manny Mogato, the Pulitzer Prize laureate. “The Philippines is not like South Korea or Israel,” he wrote. Both countries face real aggression, as real as having “enemies wishing to erase it from the map.” They need a strong and well-equipped military reservist force.

READ: Conscription: Sara’s crazy idea of mandatory military service

Congressional proponents like dela Rosa also cite a third country with obligatory military service – Singapore. They have not researched. Singapore’s context is completely irreconcilable with ours. Its National Service made compulsory a military conscription program beginning 1967 for all 18-year old Singaporean male citizens and permanent residents. That was because the British government had withdrawn in the late 1960s all its troops stationed in Singapore. Having a tiny population then (it is still a little over 5 million today), the island state had only a small number of regulars for its standing army (only 1,000 soldiers). It needed reservists. That is not applicable to our Armed Forces of the Philippines with an active personnel of 143,100 as of 2021, and a total reserve personnel of 1,200,000 as of 2022 (from 700,000 total reserves in 2018).

The House of Representatives ended the year with bills that were received with odium by the taxpaying public, the suspicious Maharlika Wealth Fund, and the bill for the National Citizens Service Training that incorporates mandatory ROTC for two years in tertiary education. Who authored it? The same names that are suspect – the husband and wife rah-rah team of Martin Romualdez and Yedda Romualdez.

It is a year-ender gift that is not welcome. Mandatory ROTC must be opposed in the campuses and on the streets.