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Sisyphus’ Lament

Mar, Wharton and our culture of stupidity

/ 12:30 AM December 21, 2015

SINGAPORE—Did Mar Roxas graduate from the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania? With incomparable collective stupidity, our democracy needed one week to verify this. Heaven forbid we debate a real issue!

On Dec. 11, presidential candidate Roxas quipped that Davao City’s safety is a myth. Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, his opponent, responded that it is Roxas’ Wharton degree that is a myth.

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On Monday, Dec. 14, Roxas said he would slap Duterte if his Wharton degree was proven real, poking fun at Duterte’s earlier threat to slap him over his disaster response duties. Roxas then challenged him to a fistfight. Duterte suggested a gun duel.

Days later, countless well-educated voters had yet to verify Roxas’ degree despite documentary evidence on the Internet.

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Archives.UPenn.edu lists Manuel A. Roxas II, 1979 (Bachelor of Science in Economics, Wharton School) as a notable alumnus in government service. On Dec. 14, Rappler posted a certificate from UPenn’s degree verification service.

Faux lawyers insisted that Wharton grants only Master of Business Administration degrees. Thus, Roxas is a UPenn but not a Wharton graduate. However, Wharton’s website describes its undergraduate degrees.

Internet detectives then argued that Wharton offers BS Economics degrees while the UPenn School of Arts and Sciences offers AB Econ. However, UPenn’s website and the certificate both confirm Roxas’ BS Econ degree.

The most persistent morons insisted that an undergraduate is not a graduate. Thus, Roxas lied. He never specified he is “only” a Wharton undergraduate.

Note, Ivy Leaguers do not associate Wharton primarily with MBAs and have no idea where this impression came from.

The debate wound down only on Dec. 17, when media showed a page from an old Wharton alumni directory listing Roxas.

Stupidity is the only apt word for this parody of logic.

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Our collective thought process is so appalling that we believe Facebook gossip more than actual documents. We embrace pseudo-legal gibberish such as the alleged distinction between “undergraduate” and “graduate” and call it insight.

To quote Summit Media president Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng from Top Gear’s Facebook page: “Research pa more, pare ko.”

Our condonation of stupidity is unbelievable when it comes to actual law, beyond Wharton degrees.

Arbitrarily declared legal experts propose outlandish theories in headlines that blatantly contradict freshman law books. Months ago, an election lawyer proposed that both the president and vice president must have immunity from suit because of equal protection—a human right that does not apply to our structure of government.

Self-styled activists routinely spout nonsense before our Supreme Court, then puff up at the press conference afterwards. A leftist congressman attacked our cybercrime law’s validity yet, when questioned during the oral arguments, informed justices that he was not familiar with the Internet. He did the same when he attacked our electricity law. This was never reported.

Similarly, the lawyer against the Torre de Manila condo behind Rizal Park repeatedly admitted during oral arguments at the Supreme Court that his points had no legal basis, though they had strong moral basis.

No less than historian Ambeth Ocampo decried how misleading some media features were. Some invoked the Venice Charter, an alleged international instrument the Philippines never signed. One article claimed that the head of the National Museum lambasted the Supreme Court because he was never heard. But he was party to the case, represented by no less than the solicitor general.

We gloss over these elections’ legal debates. Sen. Grace Poe’s issues seem overwhelming because there are two concepts, citizenship and residence. Typical questions such as how her use of a US passport affects her residency betray lack of thinking; a passport reflects one’s citizenship but does not affect where one lives.

Last week, I raised how the Commission on Elections arguably invoked nonexistent doctrine to disqualify Poe. There seems to be no rule that one is a resident only if one is a citizen, and one can go through each case on balikbayan. Further, the Comelec argues our dual citizenship law is invalid and cannot make Poe—or anyone else—natural-born again when she reacquired Philippine citizenship, despite a 2001 Supreme Court decision that upheld this.

These are grave intellectual allegations important to overseas Filipino workers, yet they have sparked no discussion. Indeed, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration appears not bothered whenever it is branded an institutionalized human rights violation because of its blanket OFW travel restrictions.

And is it surprising that some believe no one died during martial law?

Why is our tolerance for stupidity boundless? Why do we embrace pseudo-legal babble over real logic? Why do we think law is more impressive the more it is incomprehensible, and abdicate our thinking to arbitrarily declared legal experts? Are we slaves to a memory-driven, bar exam-oriented education that deters critical thinking?

I began writing in December 2011. I began a regular column in December 2014, after Opinion editor Chato Garcellano confirmed I have no girlfriend who might interfere with my deadlines.

“Sisyphus’ Lament” is an irreverent series of Philippine Law Journal essays. Volume 79, page 885 reads: “Sisyphus is the epitome of hopeless labor, condemned to forever roll a boulder up a slope only to see it rush back down each time.” Thus did I characterize writing about law and principle in the Philippines.

Thank you my readers for your patience these past years. All I want for Christmas is a “research pa more” shirt.

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React: oscarfranklin.tan@yahoo.com.ph, Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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TAGS: Graduate, Mar Roxas, opinion, undergrad, undergraduate, University of Pennsylvania, UPenn, Wharton
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