Intellectual Dishonesty

Buencamino and Sta. Ana belong to Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph). This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad Column of BusinessWorld, May 5,2008 edition, pages S1/4 – S1/5.

Columnist John Nery (Armchair Radicals, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 22 April 2008) asserted that we “have committed the old crime known in the free-spirited Sixties as libel by label,” and he wants us “to account for (our) intellectual dishonesty.”

Nery responded vociferously to our piece, titled “Jesuitic Placebo,” which was published in the Inquirer’s Talk of the Town, 13 April 2008). Our essay was a criticism of the Guidelines of the Philippine Jesuits’ Commission on the Social Apostolate.

Our main argument was that the Jesuits’ Commission paper devalued the call for Mrs. Gloria Arroyo to resign and the need for people power to effect Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation. We likewise argued that, absent the frame of Arroyo’s resignation, the Commission’s recommended action, especially having an independent counsel, would become a distraction and a waste of resources.

To be convincing, Nery should have challenged our main or principal arguments. He failed to do this. Instead, he focused on the tone of our paper and the minor points. That’s not the way to win an argument.

Without verifying our life story, our struggles, misadventures, and battle scars, Nery labeled us “armchair radicals.” The title of Nery’s piece was a
direct assault on us, not on our piece. On the other hand, Jesuitic placebo, the title of our piece, is an apt description of the Jesuit Commission’s paper. It was a polemical assault on the Guidelines. Libel is committed against a person, not an idea.

Nery was upset with the polemical, satirical style of our writing, to the extent that he forgot about debating on substance. Why didn’t he debate with
Leloy Claudio, who was likewise critical of the Jesuits’Guildelines (“Communal Action Must Target Gloria,” Inquirer’s Talk of the Town, 12 April 2008)? For Nery, Claudio’s response “was a different matter.” The discerning and sophisticated reader would have observed that despite different styles, our paper and Claudio’s paper complemented each other, something that the Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros observed. We and Claudio, after all, belong to the same organization and have a common stand.

Strangely, Nery did not lambast de Quiros’s column (“Addled, 15 April 2008), which from its title alone was harsher in its criticism of the Jesuit
Commission’s paper. De Quiros’s position: “The Jesuits’ reasoning is not flawed, it is idiotic.”

Nery did not even bother to defend the proposal for an independent counsel that we criticized. It is indeed difficult to defend the proposals of the Commission, namely the impeachment and the independent counsel. Benjamin Tolosa, who co-wrote the Commission’s Guidelines, said in an email commentary: “Admittedly, the mechanics for both proposals still need to be fully worked out.”

The soldiers of Ignatius should come prepared to do battle. But the Company through its Guidelines offers half-baked proposals—i.e., “still to be fully worked out.” That leads to slaughter on the battlefield.

Nery likewise disassembled parts of what we wrote—distorting and manipulating our formulations. He used previous papers that we individually wrote to pursue his attack.

Resorting to a cheap blow, Nery said, for instance, that Sta. Ana essentially called Father Provincial Danny Huang a “liar.” That was a big leap from what Sta. Ana questioned: that Father Huang did not want to call the Guidelines a position or a manifesto. In the said paper (“The Black Priests,” BusinessWorld, 31 March 2008), Sta. Ana had a kinder interpretation of Father Huang’s endorsement of the Guidelines, a point Nery omitted.

Nery quoted a Buencamino article but took out key passages, to portray Buencamino as one who dismissed the principle of preferential option for the poor. Nery likewise distorted Buencamino’s insight into people power that it is impermissible for an illegitimate administration to engage in “self-defensive action other than preventing wanton vandalism and violence.” Nery interpreted it as an “eye-for-an-eye reading,” as fomenting violence.

Nery’s subjectivism blinded him to attack us, but his arguments were devoid of substance and full of innuendoes and distortions. He, not we, should account for his intellectual dishonesty.

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