It is not surprising that even in a battle amongst professionals who built their trade upon deep-thought fields such as philosophy, the tools of choice remain primitive — intimidation, pulling of rank and seniority, and use of mass media. All of these resonate far more loudly in a backward society than does a duel of wits at an intellectual level. It’s not too different from elections — appeals to emotion trump appeals to the soundness of ideas. It is why debates are more exceptions than rules in our elections.
Connie Veneracion expresses her outrage at an attempt on the part of the Philippine Supreme Court to censure the faculty of the University of the Philippines Law School for publishing a statement calling for the resignation of Justice Del Castillo who is accused of plagiarism but is seemingly being coddled by his collagues in the high court.
It’s jaw-dropping. It’s mind-blowing. First, a colleague is exculpated for an obvious culpability. Then, those who dared to criticize the wrongdoing for what it is — a clear wrongdoing — are going to be sanctioned?
Well, if you ask me, I don’t really give a shit. How many battles of this type routinely rage among the dime-a-dozen lawyers who infest Philippine society anyway? Some are won by the good guys among them and some are lost. But at the end of the day, who cares? If it were, say, a debate that may result in legislation that would impact the long-term viability of our presence as a species on this planet (e.g. population growth, waste management, and energy consumption, to mention a few), I’d perk my ears up. This battle among lawyers simply fails to pass the So What? test. The only good thing that can come out of a battle among lawyers is if they succeed at killing off one another and ridding our society of their ambient bullshit.
Pinoy society is not a thinking society. Therefore power-plays based on ideas simply do not resonate.
Despite brilliant schooling in the finer points of discourse, Filipino lawyers are not above reverting to more effective strategies for gaining the higher ground. Indeed, why argue on the basis of ideas when plain old talking louder and carrying a bigger stick does the job? It’s why Filipinos get treated the way they are by their elite and it is why insulting of the Filipino’s (albeit meager) intelligence is so utterly institutionalised in our society. It’s because Filipinos respond to tried-and-tested forms of persuasion (vacuous appeals to reptilian sentiment) than to more modern (read: intellectually-appealing) stimuli. In an environment as intellectually-bankrupt as ours, lawyers are not exempt from an inclination to simply go with the flow of the lowest denominator.
“In Japan there are very few lawyers and the codes are mostly unwritten, but they are binding, nonetheless.”
– Greg Sheridan, Asian Values Western Dreams