Sunday, February 12, 2012

Centennial of the University of the Philippines ROTC Unit

2012 marks the centennial of citizen's military training in the Philippines which began at the University of the Philippines on 17 March 1912.

While Filipinos have throughout history responded to calls to defend their land (Filipinos resisted British occupation in 1762), the Spanish Army having earlier established a militia at the University of Santo Tomas (General Antonio Luna learned his basic military tactics here), it was only in 1912 when the citizen's army was really meant to defend the Philippines and not just the imperialist power which had sovereignty over the islands then.

This is the essence of a citizen's armed forces to defend the home and hearth. The idea wasn't new. The British Army established militias in their colonies and it eventually became the nucleus of the revolutionary army that forced the British out of the American Colonies. In other British colonies which had a peaceful transition to independence and sovereignty, the militias became the nucleus of the independent nations' armed forces. An example are the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy.

This was the concept that the Americans introduced to the Philippines and this meant building a citizen's armed forces with sufficient training that would be for territorial defence and a small corps of professional but highly trained soldiers. When the Americans agreed to a transition program for Filipino independence, this formed at the core of building the Philippine Army under General MacArthur and President Quezon's plan. However budgetary problems and the hesitancy of the American government doomed the plan. The Filipino armed forces thus was under-equipped and poorly trained on the eve of Pearl Harbor.

The UP ROTC unit was one of two units (the other was the Ateneo unit) which refused to disband (upon orders of higher command) as a result of the Japanese invasion. Thus many  UP and Ateneo cadets fell in battle against the Japanese.  One UP ROTC graduate is remembered as the first Filipino soldier to kill a Japanese invader in Atimonan, Quezon. The freedom of this nation has been bought by their blood.

The UP ROTC unit has produced excellent professional soldiers, leaders in government and private enterprises, Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Philippines as well as men and women, in their ordinary way, who have defended the ideals that the Philippine Republic is built upon. The next 100 years will see challenges for the ROTC unit. Recent changes in the law has weakened the national ROTC program and has put a serious problem on ensuring the viability of the Philippine armed forces in ensuring a source of ready recruits. The national security environment has changed with external and internal threats much different than 30 years ago and there is the problem of environmental disasters as a threat to national survival. The ROTC can help in addressing these security concerns.

On March 17, there will be a parade of ROTC cadets and alumni as well as centennial dinner at UP's Quezon Hall.

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