training is a part of the Philippines' educational system
by Isko Pineda, 9 May 2005
High School: CAT (Citizens Army Training)
There is no compulsory military
service, or draft, in the Philippines. In a country where 80% of the
population lives in poverty and where even university graduates can hardly
find a decent job, there is no shortage of people lining up for work in
the military. As they say, you have a chance of coming out alive in a
battlefield but not with hunger. There is also a general perception among
the people that joining the military is the quickest way to get rich.
Corruption is a way of life in the Philippine military but that might be
the rule with other military system everywhere.
If there is no compulsory military service, there is however compulsory
military education. Introduction to the military comes early in the life
of most Filipinos’ formal education. It starts once you enter fourth
year high school. If you
count boy and girl scouting, then it starts early in grade school. Boy and
girl scouting is an extra-curricular activity in schools until third year
high school – from eight to fiftheen years old.
CAT (Citizen Army Training) is a course that is part of the fourth year
high school curriculum. As with any course, the students receive marks for
their performance. Like the academic requirements, they can either fail or
pass. It is compulsory for all fourth year students, girls as well as
boys. Those with visible physical disabilities and those recommended by
medical doctors as unfit for the training for health reasons are exempted
from the physical training, but not from the course. They are assigned
administrative and household tasks to perform, i.e. checking of
attendance, cleaning, etc.
You cannot seek exemption from military training at school on the grounds
that you are gay nor for religious reasons. Matter of fact, those who are
openly gay attending the training are made the objects of jokes and pranks
and treated like fools. The rich can always use their money and influence
to get their kids out of military training. The rich, however, would more
often enrol their kids in exclusive Catholic schools where the kids do not
have a choice but to undertake the training.
For four hours each week for the whole school year, the students, aged
15-16, undergo rigorous training. Students in military uniforms doing
military drills and exercises are a normal sight on campuses. The students
are also given lectures on the operations of the Philippine military
system. The whole set-up is organized and functions like a military unit .
You have the battalion which is composed of several companies and the
companies composed of several platoons. Each unit has a student officer.
Decisions are made through a chain of command under the supervision of the
commandant. In big schools, the commandants are usually military personnel
but in small schools the task is usually assigned to a male teacher.
Because of the power and prestige that goes with being an officer,
there is no lack of fourth year students who are willing to give up their
school break to train for four hours each day from Monday to Friday for
two months to prepare them for the job.
The training is no different to training given to actual soldiers. In
large schools, they are even taught to handle real guns. It is wooden guns
for smaller schools. The trainees are ranked by their performance. The
student who performs the best based on the judgment of the trainers, often
military personnel, are assigned the highest post (Corp Commander). Girls
who go through the training do not of course make it to the top no matter
how good they are.
Army training is much more rigorous in government schools than in private
schools. This is because government schools have to compete with each
other in what they call the tactical inspection. For private schools the
tactical inspection is optional.
The tactical inspection judge the schools according to how well their
students know the Philippines military organization. This is determined by
the students’ performance in the:
a. individual interviews
conducted by representatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP);
b. written examinations
prepared by the AFP itself;
c. participation of the school
in community activities; and military drills and exercise.
Schools consider it a big prestige to make it to the top of the tactical
inspection competition. This is akin to being adjudged a school of
In spite of its claim to help instil among the students positive values of
citizenship, like self-discipline, leadership, positive competition,
community service, etc., a closer look at the CAT reveals its true agenda.
It is actually a military recruitment machine designed to lure the best
students to decide for a military career. Fourth year high school is the
most crucial time in every Filipino student’s education. This is the
time when they have to decide which career path to pursue. Give the
students a taste of the military, its power and its prestige, then bombard
them with propaganda about a military in the service of democracy, and you
have a recruit.
College/University: CMT (Citizen Military Training)
The CMT is the college counterpart of the CAT and is organized in exactly
the same way or even more sophisticated. It used to be called the ROTC
(Reserved Officers Training Corp) patterned after the US ROTC. Like the
CAT, the CMT is a required course for every college curriculum but limited
this time only to male students. The course is given one day each weekend
for the first two years in the university. Students wearing the required
combat shoes, fatigue uniform complete with badges and insignia, cap, and
carrying wooden rifles, undergo a whole day of rigorous training from
seven o’clock in the morning until five o’clock in the afternoon under
the intense heat of the sun. As in high school, training is mainly on
military drill and exercises.
No student can graduate unless he completes the required four units of
military training. Many students who have completed the academic
requirements of their chosen subject fail to get their degree/diploma
because they have not finished the required military training units.
Many students consider becoming an officer in order to enjoy discounts in
their tuition fees. First
year students aspiring to become officers have to undergo two months
preparatory training during the school break, so that as they enter their
second year, they are already officers. Those who do not want to become
officers don’t need to undergo the preparatory training but they still
have to complete the required four units.
From my own experience, CMT is the most unpopular activity at the
university. In all my university days, I never came across anyone who
spoke well of it. Many tried to find ways to totally avoid it. Many faked
illness by submitting fake medical certificates, but because that does not
totally excuse someone from the training course, others resorted to
bribing student officers to get out. The officers just keep on checking
their attendance without them physically being there. Since most of the
officers are themselves paying for their subsistence during their time at
the university, they are almost willing accomplices. Those who cannot
afford to pay the bribe or who do not have the connections to secure
medical certificates have no choice but to go through the entire training
Supervision of the CMT is directly under the military. Depending on the
agreement with the university, CMT may be supervised by either the Air
Force, the Marines, or the Navy.
Similar to the CAT, colleges and universities compete at the end of the
school year in the tactical competition. The competition, however, is much
more sophisticated at this level, as it often includes mock combat drills.
Again, the university which comes top in the set criteria wins the
CMT is an attempt of the military to bring in those who are against the
Judging from the way it is received by the students, however, it is not
working. Except for those taking up criminology courses leading them to a
police career, most other people try to get away from it as much as
There is a citizens’ movement that wants the military completely out of
the schools and their numbers are growing. Consider it a step towards a
society where the military is irrelevant.