Thoughts on a double vodka

my Trade Tripper column for the 23 December 2015 issue of BusinessWorld:

Recently got to re-watch the classic movie musical Singin’ in the Rain and interestedly noted how Don (Gene Kelly’s character) kept emphasizing his life rule to be: “Dignity. Always Dignity.” Quite apt actually, for the times we live in.

Not Christmas, of course, for it has it’s own inherent dignity. But more for the political campaign period, which is another way of saying it’s the silly season.

As example: a bunch of Davao City Mayor Rordrigo R. Duterte’s supporters got angry at me when all I did was write that Duterte’s statements and actions carried an internally coherent logic fulfilling the progressive concept of individual autonomy. Makes you wonder what they’d do if someone actually criticized their candidate.

Which takes me to Manuel “Mar” A. Roxas II’s Wharton issue.

It puzzled me why people all of a sudden are so obsessed with a candidate’s academic credentials. I mean, why weren’t we like this in 2010? Back then, the only thing important it seemed was that a candidate had a dead politician as parent.

Somebody asked me: are academic qualifications important? Of course it is. But not in the way most people think.

It doesn’t necessarily mean somebody is smart or able. But the point is that by going through a college or university course, that person now has a record to be scrutinized. The same with a person’s prior work experience.

No sane person will hire someone with practically no record or experience to his/her name to manage a tire vulcanizing shop. And yet we seem determined to do that for someone who literally has life and death powers over the Filipino population, either by police powers or by taking us to war.

The thing is, we don’t vote somebody for president just because that person talks well, has inspiring plans, and “has a good heart” and “makatao.” I know of a taxi driver like that but I won’t vote him for president.

No. We vote someone because he has a consistent record of getting things done, the right way. And we can know that by scrutinizing a person’s record and ignoring inane celebrity endorsements.

And dignity. Always dignity.

For the person we install as president will necessarily represent the country. And we simply cannot have a vulgarian in Malacañang. Or a guy who cracks under pressure. Or a foreigner.

Of criminals, yes we can’t have that too. But convicted ones. And these should include those that were convicted of extrajudicial forms of law enforcement, wrongful use of government funds, or deliberate misstatements in sworn public records. Mere allegations should not suffice. Such are just hot air and properly dismissed as part of partisan dirty works.

Speaking of academics, I’ve always suspected malice in some people’s persecution of Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.’s Oxford credential.

Those critics miss the point: the important thing was to be accepted in Oxford. Not many do. Which is actually an understatement.

Royalty has no more chances of getting in than children of store clerks, let alone mere sons of presidents. What matters is personal merit.

Oxford has in recent years received around 17,000 undergraduate applicants worldwide and admitted only 3,200 (for an admissions percentage of 18%). And if it’s Oxford’s famous PPE course (philosophy, politics, and economics), you’re talking of one of the most rigorous courses in the planet, for which a considerable number of any generation’s most brilliant students won’t be able to finish.

That is why many Oxbridge alumni (meaning those who studied in either Oxford or Cambridge) prefer not referring to a year of graduation but instead discreetly indicate that they “read [insert field of study] in Oxford (or Cambridge).” Which is what Marcos practically did and which formulation was used by Oxford representatives in confirming that he did “read for a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.”

But it’s an indication of how silly things are that I’ve wretchedly descended to defending an Oxonian.

Incidentally, the admissions percentage for Wharton is an even stricter 14%.

Having said that, I’ll be the first to say that diplomas don’t give one class or pedigree. No.

It is “manners maketh man.” Which fittingly was said either by William Horman or William of Wykeham. Either way, both are Oxbridge men. So there.

Finally, why do we insanely insist in having these same oligarchic families rule over the country? UP professor Prospero De Vera (in a 2010 Forbes magazine interview) says insightfully: “In the Philippines it appears that is a crime and it is a sin to become rich.”

But that begs the question: why is it that for many Filipinos it’s a “crime” to be self-made? When the families that ruled this country have been richer for far longer and at the expense of this country?

Anyway, every election is a chance for a fresh start. But as in everything else, there’s a right way of doing things.

And remember: Dignity. Always dignity.

Merry Christmas to all. And a happy new year.