Let her keep it.
Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson has returned the controversial award given to her by the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association Inc.
A photo posted yesterday on the organization’s Facebook page showed a framed medal and certificate being turned over to two USTAAI officers.
The group handed Uson and other recipients a Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service at their glittering homecoming ceremony last Jan. 21.
Netizens, among them UST alumni, erupted in outrage and questioned the award. Uson has been slammed many times in the past for purveying fake news and disinformation. Her virulent screeds and pronouncements have contributed toward polarizing Filipinos into “ka-DDS” (die-hard Duterte supporters) and “yellows” (non-Duterte supporters).
UST’s student paper, The Varsitarian, condemned the award, saying that the USTAAI “has manifested the banality of evil and perpetuated a libel on UST,” and called upon the alumni organization’s officers to resign.
For its part, the administration of UST clarified that the award was not given by the university itself and disavowed any knowledge of the selection process.
Disgusted with the USTAAI’s decision, three past honorees have returned their awards in protest—Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, US-based novelist Bino Realuyo, and former Health Secretary Dr. Carmencita Noriega-Reodica.
Reodica said “the award has lost its meaning and significance.”
Realuyo said he was “demoralized” by the recognition of and support given to Uson, “a political propagandist who thrives in attacking the highest ideals of Philippine democracy.”
Villarin denounced “all the lies, vitriol, and violence peddled by government officials like Mocha Uson.”
The resultant public uproar impelled USTAAI president Henry Tenedero to resign. In a statement, he said that he accepts full responsibility for all that has happened, but that the organization would not “rescind the recognition already conferred.”
Fending off the rain of brickbats with her customary insolence by branding the protesting UST community “OA” (over-acting), Uson returned the award anyway.
Again I say, let her keep it. Here’s why:
First, let us define our terms. The Oxford Dictionary says that an award is “a prize or other mark of recognition given in honor of an achievement,” and to my understanding an achievement involves excellence, skill, ability, courage, or other positive value.
Tenedero said that the only criteria applied in the selection of Uson for the ‘government service’ award were that she was a UST graduate and that she is working in government.
These are the shallowest selection measures I have ever come across. Having mass and occupying space is not an achievement. Recognizing someone for having gone to school and holding a job makes the award a mere certificate of attendance.
Defending their decision to give the honor, Tenedero said in a television interview “’Yong core values na nabanggit sa plaka—‘yong competence, commitment, compassion—relative ‘yan eh. Sino ang puwede magsabi na walang competence? Kasi noong kino-consider namin [ang bibigyan ng award], sa totoo lang, hindi naming tiningnan ‘yong morality, uprightness.”
But if an organization’s leaders don’t realize what a real achievement is, and if they can’t discern how values are manifested in a person’s behavior, and if they can honor a person who is neither moral nor upright, then they are unsound and unwise.
So for the superficial and arbitrary nature of its criteria, and for the poor judgment and shaky credibility of the award-giving body, the recognition given to Uson is devoid of real prestige and significance. It’s not a true award as we understand such honors to be.
Let her keep it.