Tan’s intellectual arrogance | Inquirer Opinion

Tan’s intellectual arrogance

01:54 AM June 06, 2015

After reading the pompous tirades directed against me by Inquirer columnist Oscar Franklin Tan (“Stop lawyers’ intellectual fraud, fear-mongering,” Opinion, 6/1/15), I was somehow reminded of my friend the late Judge David Nitafan of the Manila Regional Trial Court. Judge Nitafan had one of the most perceptive minds in the judiciary during my time; and he was the author of numerous articles and books on varied legal subjects. But he had the tough luck of writing an article critical of martial law. He incurred the ire of a Supreme Court justice who was obviously pro-administration. The magistrate scolded him for airing this view before clearing it out with him.

Judge Nitafan took the rebuke in stride, but he was greatly disappointed by what he considered was a subtle attempt to silence him.


Now I know how my friend Dave must have felt. When I wrote that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law has been crafted in a way that would allow the emergence of an Islamic state, I was arguing for the introduction of certain safeguards in the law to prevent this from happening. But here comes Tan who says in a contemptuous manner that even high school students know that Congress has no authority to establish a state religion or the authority to create a Bangamoro parliament with the power to do what it cannot.

He ignores my point that an Islamic state may result if the principle of the separation of Church and State is not instituted in the BBL. There was thus the need to mention it in the proposed law. I have no quarrel with Tan if he believes this to be unnecessary, but he counters my position, not with arguments into its merit, but with intellectual arrogance. He accuses me of fraud and spends the rest of his article chiding the Inquirer for publishing my opinion.


I found that I was not the only victim of his venom. He also tried to attack lawyer Romulo Macalintal for his view on a vice president’s immunity from suit. He wrote—why was this news given space when he is an election, not a constitutional lawyer?

For a free speech advocate, Tan shows an alarming ignorance of the ramifications of what Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called the free trade in ideas. He is no different from the magistrate who used the superiority of his office to quell the opinion of a lower court judge. In the case of Tan, he exploits his vantage position in media to browbeat those whose views he dislikes.

The great French philosopher Voltaire once said to Rousseau—I do not agree with a word of what you said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. I hope it will not take long for Tan to understand the simple truths behind this statement.

—MARIO GUARIÑA III, former associate justice of the Court of Appeals

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, David Nitafan, Oscar Franklin Tan, Romulo Macalintal
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