It Often Takes Time to Learn an Important Lesson

Felipe Villamor reports on the recent ouster of the Philippines Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the New York Times with the following headline, "Philippine Court Removes Chief Justice, a Critic of Duterte". Michael Gonchar once enumerated in an article also published in the New York Times fifty ways by which students could learn from current events. The fifty ways obviously paint one overarching theme when it comes to learning from current events, the importance of practice, for it really takes time to learn important lessons. One reason it takes time is that current events are frequently relayed already with a bias, which makes it difficult to distill what the real lesson is. In this recent event, the Supreme Court in the Philippines is crystal clear in its opinion when it ousted its Chief Justice. The decision is even unanimous with regard to the question of whether Justice Sereno violated the Constitution for her failure to file Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. The court then reminds its citizens that "A public officer who ignores, trivializes or disrespects Constitutional and legal provisions, as well as the canons of ethical standards, forfeits his or her right to hold and continue in that office." Sereno was ousted not because she was a critic of Duterte. She was removed from office because she did not follow the law. Being a critic of Duterte does not exempt an individual from the law. Speaking against Duterte is not a license to be above the law.

Above copied from The New York Times

Therein lies, I think, is the important lesson. Some of the elites in the Philippines look down on this recent decision by the Supreme Court. It is a result, I believe, of a sense of righteousness that is based solely on one condition - being against Duterte makes an individual infallible. Morality becomes relative that even honesty is no longer an imperative. Cheating, for example, can be justified if it is meant to prevent someone considered evil by the elites from taking power.  When and how the Philippines would ever learn that no one is above the law and that elites are not entitled to be the sole arbiters of truth and justice would probably take time, lots of time.

But there is hope. Lessons do have a way of miraculously appearing. The other night, my daugther introduced me to a book written by Don Brown, "Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History". The book was so much more than just an account of the duel during which Aaron Burr killed his political rival, Alexander Hamilton. I was actually impressed by how Brown depicted these two founding fathers of the United States in a parallel fashion, but what hit me the most was Aaron Burr's closing statement, “I should have known the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me.”



There is indeed hope as long as those who actually have the resources to write and inform us also have learned the important lesson. Gonchar did preface his fifty ways to learn from current events with the following:
"How can we make sure that students are informed about what’s going on around the world? That they are armed with the tools to be able to distinguish between opinion and fact; between evidence-based statements and empty rhetoric; between sensationalism and solid journalism? Just like most other things in life, the best way to do all that is through practice."
Such practice, however, requires responsible writers and journalists.


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