DLSU-Taft campus paper apologizes for spoof article on mandatory ROTC

April 3, 2023 - 2:28 PM
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The LaSallian logo
Logo of The LaSallian, the official student publication of De La Salle University, as seen in this photo posted on its Facebook page on Jan. 19, 2023 (TheLaSallian/Facebook)

The official student paper of a Taft-based university issued an apology after its spoof article on mandatory ROTC for April Fools’ Day earned widespread backlash among the local online community.

The LaSallian (TLS) on Sunday, a day after April Fools’ Day, released a statement about its now-unavailable article on its spoof website titled “DLSU to implement mandatory Rampa On The Campus by Term 3, preparations in place.”

TLS is De La Salle University‘s student publication. On its website, it calls itself the “bastion of issue-oriented critical thinking.”

Meanwhile, the viral spoof article said that the “mandatory ROTC program” will be implemented to “instill discipline, fashion, and finesse among Lasallians, as well as to be more reflective of the current ‘slayyy’ culture and clout-chasing tradition that DLSU holds.”

It even added a translated quote from the supposed university president, which reads: “President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. certified the ROTC as urgent, but we have become frustrated over the delay caused by debacles in Congress and the Senate. Thus, we took it into our own hands to get ahead of them and give DLSU its own ROTC.”

“Programs and activities have been prepared for students to be strong and willful youth soldiers for the motherland,” the spoof further reads.

‘Not a joking matter’

While it wrote the “mandatory ROTC program” in the essence of fashion and drag show-inspired activities, the whole subject was not lost to some online Filipinos who said that the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps issue should not be a joking matter.

“You do realize you may have just normalized mandatory ROTC even further, right? Or maybe this was the goal of the authors after all. To post this on April Fools’ Day so that it would pass as a joke, but in the process pushes for mandatory ROTC in La Salle,” a Twitter user commented to TLS’ now-deleted post linking to the spoof.

“As an alumnus, I can recall how The LaSallian covered the campaign made by various orgs [organizations] to USG, CSO, among others, to fight mandatory ROTC,” another online user wrote, referring to DLSU’s University Student Government and the Council of Student Organizations.

“The LaSallian is very much aware of the gravity of the issue, and it’s saddening to see this being made a subject of humor for April Fools,” he added.

IBON Foundation researcher Mark Famatigan, who used to be the editor-in-chief of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños’ student publication, also shared his two cents on the matter.

“Advice to pubs [publications] trying to do satire, as someone who made mistakes before, always punch up and never down. Satire only works when it’s being used to criticize those in power. This joke doesn’t critique ROTC and its proponents. It only makes fun of students wearing ankle pants,” he wrote.

“Isipin din natin ang repercussions ng sinusulat natin. Satire is meant to inform pa rin. So when we publish satirical content like this, we should ask, nakakaambag ba [siya] ng kaalaman ng readers or is it just some cheap joke? Worse, am I stepping on a group who doesn’t need it?” Famatigan added.

“Throwing away your responsibilities for April Fool’s like, people didn’t die [because] of [ROTC],” another Twitter user partly commented.

TLS takes down viral spoof

TLS took down the spoof a day after April Fools’ and said it “deeply apologizes for this oversight.”

The student publication added that it “recognizes the misjudgment” for publishing it and that it will “continue to work on maintaining a safe space for its audience.”

According to the campus paper, the spoof was supposed to ridicule the “recent Senate Bill that proposed mandatory ROTC for the tertiary level.”

“While the article intended to take a jab at the issue, we poked fun at the idea of such a mandate without offering any meaningful commentary on the matter at hand. We did not intend to undermine the youth’s campaign, and we apologize for our shortcomings in maintaining responsible satire,” the TLS said in a statement.

It added that it had taken down the article and that the publication has “long reported on the student sector’s fight against mandatory ROTC,” including covering the “injustices” with the university’s own ROTC program.

“Despite the spirit of April Fools’ Day, we recognize that our publication has a responsibility to inform and educate our readers on important issues that affect the student community,” TLS continued.

The publication said that it commits to continuing its mission and that it will be “more thoughtful” in its approach to spoof.

“We will ensure that our articles continue to uphold journalistic standards. We deeply apologize for this oversight and assure our readers that we will continue to learn and grow from this experience,” TLS added.

It has been a tradition of the student publication to release spoof articles for April Fools’ Day.

Some of its content for this year include the Andrew Building staircase, poking fun at Lasallian slang, and learning through TikTok clips, among others.

Mary Emmanuelle, a former member of the TLS editorial board, said that the spoofs are the publication’s way to use satire “to attack trivial issues” or release “relatable content to remind the student body that despite the usual aloof demeanor of the pub [publication], it is still run by students who do care about their fellow students.”

“[With] the prominence of mis/disinformation, choosing to still release a spoof issue is like walking on a tightrope. But from an author’s standpoint, sometimes, we do need to get creative to get people’s attention. Except they focused too much on the latter,” she added, referencing the issue on this year’s spoof.

Other spoofs that were called out by some Twitter users include its announcement of using Filipino as its medium, the transport strike, and depression.

The ROTC program 

Talks about making ROTC mandatory among Filipino youth have long been pushed since the Duterte administration.

It continuously gets prioritized under the Marcos administration, with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr previously saying he wanted a legislative measure of it to be passed at the end of the first regular session in Congress.

As of March 22, the Senate bill making ROTC mandatory for students in higher education institutions and technical-vocational institutions was now up for plenary debates.

It proposes that the ROTC program will be undertaken for four semesters and that students who fail to undergo the program will not qualify for graduation.

Meanwhile, institutions that fail to institute and implement the ROTC will face disciplinary and administrative sanctions from the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Some lawmakers and groups have dropped calls to make it mandatory following the hazing death of Adamson University student John Matthew Salilig.

While Salilig’s case was not ROTC-related, it had elements of hazing which were also seen in some ROTC programs.

The ROTC program among students was made optional after University of Santo Tomas student and cadet Mark Chua died at the hands of his officers after exposing the corruption in their unit.

He went missing after the story on the issue was published in the school’s publication, The Varsitarian.

Chua’s body was found floating in Pasig River in 2001. It was wrapped in carpet, while his hands and legs were found “hogtied.”

His face was also “wrapped with silver duct tape,” according to the school publication.

Chua’s death was a catalyst for the creation of Republic Act 9163 in which ROTC enrollment was no longer required and students could choose other tracks to fulfill their national service requirements.