People who are frothing in the mouth over the University of Santo Tomas’s (UST) Alumni Association awarding Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson distinction for government service should just get over it. “Awards” by institutions nowadays have long been under blanket suspicion anyway. Data generated by social media activity had taken over as more reliable indicators of what is relevant to the public. People now rely less on institutions to tell them what is good or bad, great or inconsequential. The once-revered institutional award bodies have succumbed to a fate of progressively being relegated to the status of old relics of less technology-enabled days. It is much like the way we now rely more on the crowdsourced movie reviews in Rotten Tomatoes than on the pompous opinion of established movie critics. Filipinos no longer have a need for institutionalised truth.
Indeed, one thing people can no longer be in an age of ready access to tonnes of information and a vast variety of options is lazy. Thus, in my previous article “Press freedom” was killed by Filipino LAZINESS and not by the Philippine government, I highlighted one of the outcomes of such laziness in the way Filipinos evaluate the information they get and decide what options to take. In the case of this latest outrage fad surrounding Mocha Uson’s award from the UST, well, the same can be said of the way the Ateneo embraced the “work” of Yellowtard blogger Jover Laurio hook line and sinker.
Who commands righteous ascendancy over what is good or bad nowadays to begin with? When the Inquirer proclaimed Yellowtard blogger Jover Laurio “Filipino of the Year”, this award too was regarded with a grain of salt at best. People simply referred back to what is “trending” on social media to assess for themselves what the true consensus was. Even the opinions of the venerable New York Times and Washington Post are routinely brushed aside. The context within which these institutions operate (encumbered by social and business relationships and the wishes, biases, and agendas of their trustees and senior executives) hopelessly colour positions they express on most matters. In the case of the Rappler shut down that was the focus of that article, Filipinos had unthinkingly allowed its CEO Maria Ressa to spin management negligence into a narrative around “press freedom”.
This is what many people don’t understand about the power they now enjoy thanks to 21st Century technology. With that power comes responsibility in the form of less reliance on traditional institutional sources of “truth” and more on informed personal judgment. What is happening today is that despite the power to choose, critically evaluate, and decide made possible by these technologies, most people still rely on traditional “thought leaders” for guidance on who to believe and what to believe.
More important, however, is the bigger picture surrounding these schools that emerges when one steps back far enough. Both are Catholic schools. And if these recent episodes have not highlighted the point enough, the Philippines’ Roman Catholic institution as administered by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has quite the track record of embracing fake information. Recall the list of “Fake News” sites issued by the CBCP some time ago — a list that was clearly made up off the whims of its venerable members. But when pressed to substantiate the bases for the allegations of “fake news” work on certain sites that made this list, the CBCP, true to its arrogant form, remained mum. I wrote back then…
It is quite interesting that in this day and age when information is so easily accessible that Filipinos continue to rely on an antiquated institution that has, for centuries, sought to suppress the evolution of society from one imprisoned by ignorance and superstition to one enlightened by science and evidence-based problem solving. The CBCP has exhibited neither the transparency nor the humility to subject itself to the same critical scrutiny that Filipinos demand that their other leaders be subject to. The hypocrisy in the way the CBCP conducts itself and regards the public in this regard is nothing short of astounding.
So does Mocha Uson truly deserve her UST award? Ordinary observers like moi aren’t really qualified to answer that question. We should really turn to the UST’s institutional peers, like, say, the Ateneo de Manila University, for example. After all, both venerable institutions are in the business of endorsing the intellectual creds of high-profile “influencers” today. So, really, we should be leaving what has essentially become an obsolete undertaking to them — and their CBCP overlords.
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