What can we learn from the thunderstorm of outrage that broke over the award for government service that the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association bestowed on Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson? It would be a mistake to think that only Uson, one of the country’s most successful social media influencers and one of President Duterte’s staunchest supporters, got schooled.
Others learned their lesson, too. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, for instance, once again exceeded the limit of reasonable rationalization when he prematurely responded to the award with “I suppose that validates that her appointment was for good reason.” The alumni association president, Henry Tenedero, defended the awarding based on the “sole criteria (sic)” that Uson was a UST alumna, and that the award was meant to inspire Uson and other awardees to perform well—giving the lie to Roque’s reasoning and angering other, much more deserving recipients of the Thomasian Award for Government Service. Tenedero has since resigned. The association itself, though its board did not revoke the granting of the award, has been chastened.
The university’s Central Student Council issued a strong statement, and the Varsitarian, which followed the story closely, ran a lengthy and courageous editorial. The student government denounced Uson as “an avid spreader and citer of fake news” and noted her reputation for using her social media following “to initiate blatant personal attacks [on] her critics and the government’s.” The student newspaper called the award a “libel on UST,” and questioned the morality of awarding someone “who does not only turn a blind eye on [President] Duterte’s human rights abuses but also viciously attacks the Catholic Church.”
Uson’s disgraceful response to the outrage only confirmed what critics of the awarding had said. She did not deserve it, because her response proved that she did not live by the university’s highest
ideals. “Veritas in Caritate” is a continuing invitation extended by the university to its students and graduates to live the truth in charity, to use the
essential human faculty of reason to make the world a kinder, more humane place. Her response, calling UST students and alumni who criticized her “OA” or overacting, and describing her experience as “pang-aalipusta” or oppression, disrespects truth and offends charity.
Why, then, award someone like that?
Because, sometimes, these awards are given to alumni who have achieved a measure of success after graduation, even though the nature of their success contradicts the very values of the education they received and of the school from which they graduated. That is the real lesson for the scandal over the alumni award bestowed on Mocha Uson.
Sometimes the alumnus who has become rich because of an unlawful trade, say illegal logging, receives an alumni award for business acumen—that is to say, because he became rich. Sometimes the alumna who has become famous because she takes her clothes off for a living receives an alumni award for artistic creativity—that is to say, because she became famous. Sometimes the alumnus who has been repeatedly reelected to high office despite a reputation for corruption receives an alumni award for public service—that is to say, because he became an entrenched politician.
The same thing happened to Uson: She received her award not because of any achievement in government service; she received it because she was in government service. Considering her earlier career choices, and then her transformation as a partisan social media influencer, her current position as an assistant secretary was proof of success. Never mind that the post is only one of very many such positions in the government bureaucracy; never mind that this was her second posting in the Duterte administration, after she was clearly miscast as a lone wolf in a collegial agency like the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board; never mind that she was appointed, as President Duterte himself said, out of “utang na loob” or a personal debt of gratitude.
This was not the first time an alumni association sought to recognize now powerful or influential alumni, and it won’t be the last. It’s a sorry lesson we keep having to relearn.
“Back to school with Mocha”
Philippine Daily Inquirer
05:28 AM January 26, 201
“Albay not Naga”
THE MANILA TIMES
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