In legal theory, the Philippines cannot declare war on Communist China for the latter’s illegal landgrabbing activities in the West Philippine Sea. That’s because even if Manila won its case against Beijing in the United Nations arbitration tribunal on the law of the sea, the 1987 Constitution renounces war as an instrument of national policy. That provision of the charter suggests that unless war is brought upon the Philippines, this country cannot start one by declaring war on other nations.
“‹The same charter, however, authorizes the Congress to declare “the existence of a state of war.” In 1943, President Jose P. Laurel of the Japanese-sponsored Republic of the Philippines officially announced that “a state of war currently exists between the Philippines on one hand and the United States and Great Britain on the other hand,” in lieu of the outright “declaration of war” demanded from him by Japanese military officials.
“‹From a practical perspective, however, war is war, whether it is declared outright or whether only its existence is declared. War means the Armed Forces of the Philippines will have to mobilize immediately. It also means prime commodities must be rationed, and hoarders must be arrested and detained.
“‹Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon created the Reserve Officers Training Corps, a program which required all able-bodied Filipino college students to undergo about two years of on-campus military training. Upon finishing the program, the former-cadets become part of the so-called citizen army, ready for conscription to the military services in the event of war or similar national emergency.
“‹The ROTC program under Quezon looked good. Cadets marched on campus in smart military regalia, and underwent weekly training in the handling of light firearms, and in related military pursuits like map-reading and first aid.
As time passed, however, Quezon felt that the ROTC program was woefully inadequate to prepare young Filipinos to fight as soldiers. This realization prompted Quezon to discontinue the ROTC program, even though he knew that war with Japan was imminent.
“‹When the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941, the ROTC graduates were quickly conscripted to active duty. Quite a number of them took their duties seriously and engaged the enemy. As Quezon feared, their ROTC training proved to be no match to the superior weaponry and resources of the Japanese invaders. Worse, since many of the conscripted Filipino troops were disorganized, most of them were captured by the enemy and kept as prisoners.
Sadly, other ROTC graduates took the easy way out and simply avoided conscription by fleeing to the mountains.
“‹Manila fell to the Japanese in January 1942. In April 1942, Bataan surrendered. Corregidor followed in May 1942. Historians blame the fall of the Philippines not only on America’s complacency, but also on the absence of a sufficient home defense program in the country.
“‹The ROTC program was revived in the country after the Philippines obtained its independence from America in 1946. During the latter years of the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, the ROTC program was renamed the Citizen Military Training program.
“‹At any rate, the ROTC program was revived on the premise that it will prepare young Filipinos for the defense of the motherland should another war take place. The reinstatement of the ROTC program also assumed that lessons were learned from the mistakes committed during World War II.
“‹Unfortunately, that was not the case. Through the decades since 1946, many college students lamented that the ROTC program concentrated on drills and ceremonies, instead of actual military training. Sure, the program taught discipline, respect for authority, even nationalism, but its practical side was either obsolete or impractical. ROTC cadets were hardly allowed to discharge real firearms, even for target practice. Those who were allowed to do so, got to fire no more than two or three bullets.
“‹The rifles used in ROTC training were either obsolete or dummies, unlike the firearms used by the AFP and their adversaries in the communist insurgency and the Muslim separatist movements. Almost nobody in the ROTC program was allowed to handle grenades and explosives. None of the cadets actually got to do real work in military establishments.
“‹Towards the end of the twentieth-century, the ROTC program imitated the ways of the Philippine Military Academy. Hazing among cadet officers became rampant in many ROTC units. Cadet officer corps soon became military fraternities.
“‹Corruption also entered the picture. After an ROTC cadet officer in one of the universities in downtown Manila exposed a racket among his colleagues, the cadet officer was brutally killed. His death caused so much public antipathy against the ROTC program that Congress eventually made ROTC optional for college students. In its stead, a national service training program because the requirement for a college degree.
“‹The ongoing Philippine problem with Communist China and the absence of a citizen army in the Philippines has prompted many well-meaning Filipinos to press for the return of the compulsory ROTC program.
“‹Unless it is updated and made practical, reviving the ROTC program would be useless.
“‹For the compulsory ROTC program to be useful, cadets must have working access to the latest firearms, explosives, and artillery so they can have a realistic knowledge of contemporary weaponry. The old ways of conventional map reading must yield to courses on how to track down the enemy using satellite technology, and getting familiar with local terrain. Military intelligence must use cyber technology. Hazing must be outlawed outright.
“‹Since the AFP has insufficient funds to acquire state-of-the-art fighter jets and warships, not to mention submarines and tanks, the AFP should acquire large numbers of anti-aircraft missiles, and helicopters. In lieu of fighter jets, the missiles can shoot down enemy aircraft. The helicopters can complement Filipino ground troops fighting invasion forces in the beaches and in the countryside. Filipino hackers, the best in the field, can fight the enemy in the cyber realm.