In 2015, the University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) was suspended for evaluation purposes in light of hazing allegations and upon the recommendation of the school’s partners in the Philippine Naval Reserve Command (NAVRESCOM). The suspension was set to last for the entirety of academic year (AY) 2015-2016. As of press time, the evaluation process is nearing its conclusion, with recommendations pending approval from the Lasallian Mission Council.
The evaluation process
The suspension of the ROTC this academic year was put into place in order to evaluate the various issues surrounding its implementation in the basic and advanced training program.
For this purpose, the ROTC Program Evaluation Committee (ROTC-PEC), a multi-sectoral committee, held regular meetings during the second term of AY 2015-2016. The committee is composed of representatives from the student body, University Student Government, ROTC alumni, current cadet officers, ROTC training staff, NAVRESCOM, DLSU administrators, faculty, and parents.
Members of the ROTC-PEC participated in discussions on various recommendations and changes for the ROTC program. Deputy Corps Commander John Villamiel explains, “The purpose of bringing up the committee and the evaluation is to address the concern brought by the previous issue of hazing allegations in the ROTC.” He adds that the committee had to analyze and assess how the ROTC program is implemented to find room for improvement in preventing instances of hazing from happening again.The last ROTC evaluation meeting was held on March 11. A presentation of consolidated recommendations from the committee to the Lasallian Mission Council is expected to happen in the future. However, Villamiel shares the possibility that there could be another meeting after the presentation to the Council for the committee to discuss the possible outcomes for DLSU’S ROTC program.
Recommendations, results of evaluation pending approval
As of press time, the recommendations made by the committee are pending approval from the Lasallian Mission Council. “Most of the recommendations focused on the improvement of the Advanced ROTC Program. It is a special training program that volunteer cadets undergo to be officers,” Villamiel describes. According to Dean of Student Affairs Fritzie De Vera, several recommendations were made in terms of the application process and training proper for the Cadet Officers Candidate Course (COCC). “[In] the application process and screening of the cadet officers, there are changes in terms of requirements [and] in terms of screening process,” she comments. De Vera also notes that changes were made to the process of choosing the corps commander. One of the discussions that transpired during the evaluation meetings revolved around identifying the key attributes that ROTC graduates should have. “If we know what characteristics or attributes we want to look for from our ROTC graduates, then that should be the basis of how the program should be implemented,” De Vera maintains.
According to her, the focus of the recommendations is ensuring that the objectives of the ROTC program are aligned with the Mission-Vision of DLSU. She adds, “Even the processes and the programs should be consistent with what we want our students to be. ROTC has its own objectives based on the program of the Navy.” Recommendations were also made regarding the conduct of training and the manualization of activities that ROTC cadets are involved in. This includes putting into writing revisions to such activities to ensure the continuity of consistent implementation even after the current officers have graduated from the program.
Another issue tackled by the recommendations is the application process for the COCC. De Vera states that there is a need for a stringent screening of candidates for the position of the corps commander as well as more engagement from the parents of the candidates.
“Apparently, one of the things that we discovered when we had that case [of hazing] before was that some of the parents didn’t know that their daughter or their son applied [for the COCC],” she narrates. She emphasizes, however, that parental consent in the form of permits is one of the requirements in the application process.
Furthermore, there is a recommendation to hire an ROTC coordinator in order to monitor the program and to ensure the smooth implementation of the recommendations. De Vera stresses that although the ROTC program of the Navy is common to all schools, each school has a unique culture, thus making it important to monitor the program. De Vera further explains, “Part of the structure is [that] there’s a head count or there’s a plantilla position for the ROTC coordinator. If we will implement the recommendations to implement ROTC next academic year, we need to hire somebody as an ROTC coordinator.” She explains that the previous coordinator had already retired and was not immediately replaced because of a hiring freeze at the time. Recommendations were also made for some of the practices within the training program. De Vera stresses that the program should avoid creating a “culture of fear.” She illustrates, “There are certain practices that we discovered that we made sure won’t be an issue [in the future]. For example, academics will always be the priority. There were cases that some of the candidates were not allowed to leave the office even if they have classes already or even if they have quizzes or exams. That caused them to fail.” When asked for his opinion regarding the recommendations made, Villamiel responds, “I think it would be best if we wait for the Lasallian Mission Council’s approval of all the recommendations since that will determine which [recommendations] are a go and a no-go. It might be too early to say that all the recommendations will be implemented, so let’s hear first what the University’s higher administration [has] to say.”