It’s strange, really, that the nuances of academic degrees get involved in who deserves to be, gangland-style, slapped. President BS Aquino’s boy, Mar Roxas, again made things worse, when he should have refused to be drawn into usapang kanto – a territory Duterte has lived in almost all his working life, where he could eat the Yellow Heir alive.
This slapping episode started when Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte blurted out a risqué threat that he would slap Roxas if he saw him, for saying that Davao’s being a peaceful city was a myth.
Roxas could have taken advantage of Duterte’s use of gutter talk – which I don’t think most Filipinos appreciate – by being gentlemanly, and replying with something like: “Slapping someone for telling the truth is what gangsters do, and we don’t do that in civilized society.” Or he could have been cute with a response like, “If he slaps me I will turn the other cheek and repeat the truth that Davao hasn’t been peaceful under Duterte.”
When Duterte again taunted him that he was lying about being a graduate of the Wharton School of Business, he should have remained cool and just told him not to believe everything whispered to him, and just check the records, that he would even pay his plane fare to go to Pennsylvania to see for himself the official school records.
But no, Roxas’ ego of course, was pricked, and no one could do that to the scion of one of the wealthiest clans in the country, destined to follow his granddaddy’s footsteps as President.
He brought the conversation again to the spectacle of slapping: “Sampalan tayo. Kung hindi totoo ang Wharton degree ko, sampalin mo ako. Hindi ako iiwas o iilag. Pero kung totoo ang Wharton degree ko, sasampalin kita. O ayan. Ang bilis mong magsalita na hindi mo alam, eh. (“Let’s go on a slapping match. If my Wharton degree is fake, slap me, I won’t turn my face away. But if you see my Wharton degree to be true, then I get to slap you.)
Mr. Palengke has become Mr. Palengkera.
Like a kid whose ego was bruised, Roxas even added: “I will write Wharton today to produce official records.”
So was Duterte wrong regarding Roxas’ academic records?
Well, he was in one way wrong, but in one way correct. Roxas doth protest too much, and he should have just let the issue pass. Instead, his threat to slap Duterte if he produces proof of his “Wharton” degree has, instead, exposed how much of an untruthful person he is, quick to put a spin on things for his benefit.
You see, people who graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania – Roxas’ course – would just call themselves U-Penn grads. It is only Roxas who has claimed, as in his official bio-data in the Senate that he is a Wharton graduate, a term used to describe those who finish a masters’ degree in business administration or finance from the Wharton School of Business, a unit of U-Penn. Former Energy Secretary Vicente Perez Jr., for instance, and Trade and Industry Secretary Gregorio Domingo, accurately claim to be Wharton graduates, because they have completed the school’s MBA course.
The US National Student Clearinghouse, a trusted source for verification of academic degrees, has confirmed that Roxas received a degree of “Bachelor of Science in Economics” from the University of Pennsylvania, but his school division was noted as “Wharton undergraduate.” So Roxas lied: He is not a Wharton graduate, but a Wharton undergraduate. (It reminds me so much of a staff I once got, introduced to me as a PMAer (a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy). It turned out he didn’t finish the course, so he couldn’t be called a PMAer, but a PMA dropout. Big difference.)
The division, I was told, was designed to prepare its graduates for MBA courses at Wharton. But Roxas didn’t even enroll in an MBA course offered at the Wharton graduate school.
Similarly, when somebody says he finished at Haas or at Kellogg or at Sloan, that means he holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration, Finance or other specializations offered by those graduate schools, and not just B.A. or B.S. degrees from the schools’ mother universities – University of California, Northwestern University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively.
I had wondered why Roxas didn’t just show his diploma “from Wharton” and posted it on the internet, with which he could have taunted Duterte: “O, ito ang diploma ko, nakasulat: Wharton. Isampal mo sa mukha mo.” I’m sure he has the diploma somewhere in his residence, most likely proudly displayed.
The likelihood is that his diploma may not even mention the name “Wharton,” but only the “University of Pennsylvania,” as shown by sample copies I saw of such diplomas for graduates of Bachelor of Science in Economics. This is because it is not the school that confers the degree but the University (see image).
If Duterte, the wise aleck, saw such a diploma, I’m sure he’d say: “O nasaan ang putanginang Wharton diyan sa diploma mo?” And indeed, until this sampalan challenge emerged recently, most people had never thought about doubting Roxas’ MBA, since he had referred to himself so many times as a “Wharton graduate.” It turns out to be a clever spin, something I had been tempted to do myself if I referred to myself as a Harvard man, because I was fellow for a year of its Nieman Foundation for Journalism.
Duterte might just have the right to slap Roxas, calling the Liberal Party candidate’s ante.
I am starting to enjoy this elections, never mind that it is so depressing, as it demonstrates how so barren of real leaders our political landscape has become.