Military trainings: Tales of mental anguish, hazing and bullying

By: ATTY. DENNIS GORECHO - Columnist/CDN Digital | August 22,2023 - 07:00 AM

The dark side of mandatory military service on bullying and hazing took the spotlight in the South Korean Netflix series D.P.  short for “Deserter Pursuit.”

All able-bodied men in South Korea are required to serve 18 months of military service considering that relations between South and North Korea are still tense. The country must be able to deploy troops and send support as soon as possible if tensions escalate.

The series magnify the military training within the “survival of the fittest” environment. Those presumed the “weakest” undergo horrifying experiences at the hands of their superiors and compatriots: beatings, insults, sexual violence, bullying, hazing and a culture of trying to silence the victims.

Soldiers are relentlessly hazed and bullied by their comrades, and ostracized for any perceived flaw. It is often a harrowing journey of mental anguish and physical abuse: some don’t survive it, some commit suicide while others flee.

DP refers to members of a special unit within the Korean army’s military police division who are tasked with chasing down and apprehending individuals who flee. Jung Jae-In and Koo Kyo-Hwan are the main stars.

The New York Times described the series as “a sensitive and forthright examination of how violent, sadistic bullying and rigid hierarchies drive young South Korean men to go to almost any length to escape military time.”

Season 2 featured an episode that explores queer identity in Korean society through the case of deserter Jang Sung-min (Bae Na-ra), a gay recruit who was brutally abused for his sexual identity. With his desire to play a female role in a play, he has been performing as a drag queen while on the run until his untimely demise.

In the Philippines,  the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program started in University of the Philippines (UP) as early as 1912 in the form of “military drill.”

The ROTC program aims to promote civil service, discipline, and order through military training. The first official ROTC unit in the Philippines was established in UP on July 3, 1922.

President Manuel Quezon issued in 1939 Executive Order 207 that aimed to implement the National Defense Act of 1935 (Commonwealth Act No. 1) as the embodiment of the national defense plan formulated by General Douglas MacArthur for the Philippine Commonwealth.

The EO made ROTC obligatory at all colleges and universities to provide military education and training for students to mobilize them for national defense preparedness. The program underwent several changes under the different administrations.

However, the growing anti-ROTC sentiment due to alleged pointlessness and corruption of the program led to the enactment on January 23, 2002 of Republic Act 9163, or the National Service Training Program.

The death of UST student Mark Welson Chua set off an explosion of anti-ROTC sentiment. His body was found floating in the Pasig River on March 18, 2001. Prior to his death, he had reported an account of alleged corruption within the UST ROTC unit to the school’s student publication. Members of the UST ROTC unit were found to be responsible for Chua’s death.

R.A. 9163 removed ROTC as a prerequisite for graduation for all male college students. NSTP is now a requirement for both genders, with three program components, ROTC, Civic Welfare Training Service, and Literacy Training Service.

I spent Saturdays of the first four semesters of my UP college life as a cadet of  the Citizen’s Military Training (CMT) with lectures, drill trainings and parades under the acacia trees as part of the Field Artillery unit. The other three units are Rayadillo, Infantry and Rescue. 

The musical “Ang Huling El Bimbo” had CMT scenes where the Eraserheads’ song “Pare Ko” was performed with a new martial cadence and rigid rhythm.

The lyrics of “Pare Ko” aptly reflect how friendships were galvanized inside the campus: “O pare ko meron ka bang maipapayo. Kung wala ay okey lang. Kailangan lang ay ang iyong pakikiramay. Andito ka ay ayos na.”

“Ang Huling El Bimbo” tells the story of three college best friends Emman, Anthony, and Hector who drifted apart in adulthood until fate reunites them due to the death of their friend, Joy.

Despite their seemingly successful lives, they were never truly happy as they were haunted by Joy’s rape incident that had a profound effect on their adult lives.

Aside from nostalgia of adolescence, the musical touched upon the issues of rape, prostitution, abuse, drugs, marital strife and violence.

It was a showcase of iconic UP Diliman campus scenes and traditions from enrollment chaos, Oblation Run, Lantern Parade, UAAP, rallies, classroom rowdiness, endless rendezvous, romance, and most significantly our dorm life.

(Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)

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TAGS: bullying, hazing, ROTC
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