Saturday, December 10, 2022

Beyond the Battlefield

by the Weekly Sillimanian | January 30, 2022

With how much easier life apparently is for young people today, calling the youth “overly privileged” and “lazy” has become such a common card to play. And this is one of the most popular and controversial arguments used in defense of the proposed military service training — an idea proposed by Sara Duterte who will push for the cause if she wins the position of Vice President this coming election.

However, this would not only be a too aggressive move to fix the “idle youth” problem but it would also be counterproductive against other issues in our nation.

If the proposed program were to be implemented, it would require a significant chunk of our national budget. Keep in mind that projects that involve managing, training, and looking after people need a lot of money for resources like food, electricity, housing, uniforms, and even training weapons. And this does not already include the subsidy the Davao City mayor mentioned during her announcement. 

The project’s effectiveness in teaching strategies for emergencies has also been questioned by many. If it is going to be anything like the current Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) component of the National Service Training Program (NSTP) implemented in colleges right now, then its objective would also be to train the youth in national defense preparedness. However, if you were to ask ROTC cadets if they would be ready to go to war right now, how many would say yes? 

The idea of required military training is one that has also been plagued by controversy through the decades. It has been considered to be a “breeding ground for corruption” and has a history of not just treating its cadets unfairly but also contributing to their deaths. In fact, it was the death of a cadet that urged the country to abolish the required ROTC many years ago. If we were to bring this requirement back, how can its authorities assure us that no one’s rights are abused?

What’s worse is that there is the possibility of blind obedience which the potentially corrupt officers will take advantage of. Since it’s a basic military principle to follow orders, those who will undergo military training will be compelled to obey their given orders, regardless of the moral guilt they may cause for the trainees. A mandatory enlistment will be detrimental to the welfare of the youth if the ranks within the uniformed personnel are not cleaned first.

Given the economic, practical, social, and ethical drawbacks of this proposal, we have valid reasons to believe it is both a harmful and ineffective one. There are better ways to promote citizenship and patriotism to the youth and given our current situation, we must choose grassroots solutions over militaristic approaches. For example, the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education could include disaster preparedness in our education system. With this, along with the improvement of the current Citizen Army Training (CAT) and NSTP, we can empower young people even from the start of just their basic education.

This is not about “punishing the youth to teach them a lesson”. This is about what is best for our country, which mere military work is not. It is simply not for everyone. Not everyone has the physical and mental endurance for it, and this is a notion the NSTP at least understands. So, instead of mandating and forcing people to be on the field, choices should be given. After all, it is the uncoerced decisions of our soldiers that make them so noble.

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