Origin of the specious at Ateneo: History and herstory

Credit to Author: YEN MAKABENTA| Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2019 16:12:39 +0000


(Last of 2 parts)
“It is easy to tell a lie, but hard to tell only one. The first lie must be thatched with another or it will rain through. More lies may come to be needed.”
– Sissela Bok

First word
THIS penetrating insight of philosopher Sissela Bok captures pithily the importance of truthfulness, and why people come to regret deceit, great and small.

As it is with individuals, so with institutions. Speciousness is corrosive of prestige and credibility.

If you google “Ateneo de Manila,” you are instantly transported to a website that tells in capsules Ateneo’s story.

I hesitated in using the word, “history.” Someone from the Ateneo sanggunian might correct me to say that it is now “herstory” also.

Amen to that.

Ateneo’s notable alumni

One section of the kaleidoscope parades the notable alumni of the Ateneo.

At the top of the line is Jose Rizal.

Next is Benigno Aquino 3rd.

Third is Kris Aquino.

Fourth is Benigno Aquino Jr.

One colleague in our discussion group immediately wondered: Was Ninoy Aquino an Atenean? Where did he graduate?

My better half says she is certain Ninoy graduated from San Beda College because he was a classmate of her uncle. He used to come to her grandma’s house for a snack or two.

Noynoy and Kris Aquino are bonafide Ateneo graduates.

The list includes a who’s who of presidents: Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

After this, it becomes a veritable celebrity list.

Mar Roxas and his father, the late senator Gerardo Roxas, turn up. Then brothers Juan and Antonio Luna.

With Kris Aquino as the top alumna, the women Ateneans include former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Lea Salonga and Tetchie Agbayani.

It is indeed “herstory” also.

Excellence and high achievement
As I remember the story, especially in Fr. Horacio de la Costa’s history of The Jesuits in the Philippines: 1584-1959, and the works of scholars like Miguel Bernad, Leon Maria Guerrero, and others, the history had a connecting thread of high ideals and achievements, and no little dash of selflessness.

It was once a tradition of excellence and high achievement. Rizal was the epitome. The reproach of elitism came later, when the country started to turn radical.

In the 1960s, the big dream at the Ateneo was to elect Raul Manglapus president of the Philippines. He ran for president in the 1965 presidential elections, but a fella by the name of “Ferdinand Marcos” took the election in spectacular fashion, probably because he had Imelda by his side.

The Ateneo community never felt comfortable with the Marcos presidency, although there was a smattering of Jesuits and Ateneans occasionally gracing a Marcos event.

The grab-bag depiction of Ateneo history, wherein anything or anyone became admissible, flowered when Rev. Jose Ramon Villarin was named president of the Ateneo de Manila University on June 29, 2010.

His selection appears to have been a deliberate and studied decision by the Jesuits to rally behind the flood of yellow in Philippine politics during the presidential elections of 2010, wherein Benigno Aquino 3rd was elected as the 15th Philippine president in the first automated (Smartmatic) presidential elections in history.

That Fr. Villarin, a physicist and educator, was named Ateneo president on the eve of Noynoy Aquino’s inauguration is not just a confluence of dates.

Manifesto of support
The presidential turnover at the Ateneo was a manifesto of support for the presidency of Noynoy Aquino 3rd, which was needed because on the day of his inauguration Noynoy embarked on his ambitious project of impeaching the then Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was incidentally also an Ateneo alumnus.

Noynoy Aquino and Villarin graduated together in 1981 — Aquino with a bachelor’s degree in economics, and Villarin with a physics degree.

Two other notables were members of the class of 1981: Maria Lourdes Sereno and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the latter also an economics graduate like Noynoy. They went on to study law and become members of the bar. They were appointed in a flash to the Supreme Court by Aquino, without serving a single day on the bench.

By then, Aquino had an expressed policy in his administration to appoint classmates to positions in government; the patronage covered even classmates from grade school, or maybe even kindergarten.

Aquino was super confident, perhaps because he had the carte blanche backing of the Ateneo community. He was fearless in his policymaking.

He went to Japan to break bread with the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in order to signal his determination to forge peace in Muslim Mindanao. In this enterprise, he brought in Malaysia inside a Trojan horse.

He launched his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to raise funds to bribe senators in the impeachment trial of Renato Corona, and also for countless projects that would catch his fancy.

He also embarked on some major initiatives, such as 1) taking China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague for its actions in the South China Sea; and 2) earning investment-grade status for the Philippines from the credit-rating agencies.

Then Aquino embarked on the epic challenge of his handpicked successor elected president, Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd, in the 2016 elections.

Throughout the Aquino presidency, despite the many controversies and even massacres, Ateneo on Villarin’s lead stood by Aquino through thick and thin. There is no record anywhere of Ateneo opposing or quibbling with an Aquino policy. Not once did it protest. Instead, Ateneo became the staging ground for multiple Aquino initiatives and programs. Ateneo students and faculty were often in the gallery cheering.

Defender of mediocrity
The thing that amazes many proud Ateneans and sympathetic observers is how Ateneo morphed from a proud bastion of excellence and high achievement to become a big-time defender of mediocrity.

This is how many members of my discussion group describe Ateneo’s uncritical support for

1. “Tuwid na Daan’ — the crooked straight path program of Noynoy Aquino;

2. The incompetent Supreme Court stewardship of Maria Lourdes Sereno and her desperate efforts to hang on after her peers voted her out of the high court; and

3. The vice presidency of Maria Leonor Robredo, as she desperately tries to fend off the electoral protest of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.

The last could be the final mission of Villarin’s leadership of the Ateneo — to stop an old foe and adversary, Marcos.

Justice Alfredo Caguioa is one justice whose eyes are firmly riveted on the electoral protest, and he will do all he can to prevent a Bongbong victory.

The thing that depresses my discussion group is that our alma mater is being shoehorned into a policy of supporting a pretend leader who looks dismally lacking in smarts and competence.

Jose Rizal and thousands of true Ateneo alumni could be wakened from their graves.


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