I don’t think so — which is disturbing considering that three of the top four universitites in the Philippines are run by Catholic priests. Catholic priests, it should be highlighted here, have taken a vow of obedience, and at the very top of this hierarchy of obedience sits, guess who, none but the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).So, yeah, go figure. Filipinos have entrusted the running of the country to an elite clique of Catholic-educated “leaders” who were trained to “think” by an organisation that is anything but objective and has partisanism baked into its very DNA. This is no thanks to the CBCP’s pathological inability to uphold the doctrine of “Separation of Church and State” that most modern and real secular liberal democracies enshrine in their governance frameworks. The CBCP can’t seem to shake off its old role as Philippine society’s kingmakers — except that the frequency with which it is failing to make kings is increasing. Nonetheless, that seeming downward spiral in the CBCP’s relevance in Philippine society has not stopped it from asserting its imagined relevance.
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To be fair, even in this age of readily-accessible information, the Philippines’ political chatter remains the way it is — hopelessly partisan and unable to incorporate innovation in the “debate”. It is because the country’s foremost leaders and opinion-shapers are mostly members of an elite community that have been taught what to think rather than taught how to think. One would like to think that, perhaps, it is because the generation that now holds key positions in government and business (so-called “Generation X”) were educated at a time when the goodness of Catholic dogma and the righteousness of anything or anyone that claims to be opposed to “authoritarianism” was not subject to any serious challenge. However, it is disturbing to note that even the minds of so-called “millennial” products of these schools remain imprisoned by the same groupthink that characterises products of these institutions from previous generations.
The prevailing belief, however, is that being a graduate of one of these prestigious Catholic schools accords one the credentials to speak with authority on most subjects — be a “thought leader”, so to speak. The irony in this that escapes most insiders in this clique is, as made evident thus far, these creds serve more as a hindrance to enlightenment than a true catalyst in the distillation of useful knowledge. Indeed, more often than not, luminaries of these schools have exhibited a lack of intellectual humility to confront serious challenges to their cherished belief systems preferring, instead, to “block” dissenters on social media or cocoon themselves within echo chambers where they are free to inbreed their ideas amongst like-minded compadres.
Perhaps this is why “fake news” had become such a “trending” topic nowadays. “Fake news” is a convenient strawman to put up to explain away the progressive slide into irrelevance of the mainstream — mainstream media, mainstream “thought leaders”, mainstream credentials, and mainstream thinking for that matter — while tiptoeing around the elephant in the room: the fact that this mainstream had many times before betrayed the trust of its own audience. Thus we have people like Maria Ressa spreading scary stories about “troll armies” that are “weaponising” the Internet. The current buzzwords bandied around within these mainstream circles are phrases like “assault on truth” and this being a “post-truth” era.
Like the Catholic Church which pins blame for the degeneration of society’s “morals” on bad politics to mask its own failure to properly guide its flock, mainstream media had turned “fake news” into a bogeyman to direct the public’s attention away from the reality that they too had failed in their role as trusted disseminators of information vital to making key choices that define a society. Now the spotlight is on these exclusive Catholic schools which had for so long enjoyed a not-so-secret monopoly over the supply of young talent to plum top positions (and career paths leading to these) in government, politics, business, and media — and that these “special” products too had failed to make the difference they were told as kids they were destined to make.
It is no wonder that the Philippines remains an oligarchy rather than a true egalitarian and secular democracy. There is something to be said about the supply of “top talent” in Philippine society. That supply is, itself, controlled by traditional oligarchs and, worse, medieval theocrats.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.