In defense of Bongbong Marcos and his Oxford fantasy
One point should be stressed in the controversy over Bongbong Marcos’ imaginary Oxford degree: There’s nothing wrong about being a college dropout.
Some of the world’s most successful people never earned a college degree.
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to build Microsoft into a software behemoth.
Three decades later, Mark Zuckerberg did the same thing as he turned Facebook into the world’s most dominant social network.
Then there’s Steve Jobs, who quit Reed College in Oregon, to start Apple in a California garage.
Of course, there’s one huge difference between Marcos Jr. and these tech icons: They never lied about dropping out.
It could be because in Silicon Valley and the technology world, misrepresenting even the most seemingly insignificant aspect of one’s academic credentials could be a career-ending mistake.
Take the case of Scott Thompson, the former CEO of Yahoo.
Thompson was already a respected tech executive at the helm of the online payment pioneer PayPal, which he led through years of steady growth, when he was tapped to run Yahoo in January 2012.
He was forced out five months later. The reason: He overstated his academic record.
Thompson’s resume had stated that he earned a degree in accounting and computer science. In fact, he only got an accounting degree from Stonehill College in Massachusetts.
It would seem like a simple, insignificant mistake. After all, by the time Yahoo hired him, it didn’t really matter if Thompson never earned a degree in computer science. By then, he was an accomplished executive in the world of tech.
But that one simple, insignificant error ended his Yahoo career.
Still, compared with what happened to the former Yahoo CEO, Bongbong Marcos’ creative reconstruction of his academic record — exposed through the brilliant reporting of Rappler’s Marites Vitug — certainly comes across as more shamelessly brazen.
Thompson padded his academic record at a small, little-known college where he actually completed his studies.
On the other hand, Bongbong claimed to have a degree at one of the world’s most prestigious and elite universities, one that Oxford has confirmed to Rappler Marcos Jr. definitely did not earn.
Bongbong clearly doesn’t get it, or is trying really to pretend not to get it.
“I got a diploma!” he’s been quoted as saying to reporters. “What do you get when you graduate? A diploma.”
The controversy has led to comparisons with Bongbong’s father, the late dictator, who was also exposed for unbelievable claims about his military exploits during World War II.
But the “like-father-like-son talk” is unfair. Marcos Jr. is not like Marcos Sr.
Marcos Sr. was worse.
Or, to put it another way, the late dictator was more daring and creative when it came to reimagining his past.
Bongbong was caught embellishing his academic credentials, which is not exactly a highly unusual offense. You hear about famous people getting caught fudging their resumes all the time.
But coming up with wild tales of heroism and presenting oneself as the superhuman leader of some invincible guerrilla army that courageously took on the Japanese imperial army during the war — now, you really have to have a sick, twisted mind to try to pull a stunt like that.
And that’s what Marcos Sr. did after the end of World War II when he was lobbying the United States for the recognition of the guerrilla unit he supposedly led.
The New York Times broke the story in January 1986 shortly before the snap presidential election and the uprising that eventually led to the fall of the dictatorship.
In letters to the American authorities, Marcos claimed that his guerrilla unit, dubbed Maharlika, “’grew such a hatred of the enemy as could be quenched with his blood alone,” the report said. Marcos painted himself as their fearless leader, saying “’It seemed as if the Japanese were after him alone and not after anyone else.”
Unfortunately for Marcos, the U.S. military didn’t believe him.
In fact, the U.S. Veterans’ Administration found that some of Marcos’ men were “hoodlums” who were guilty of “atrocities” and were “tied together for nefarious reasons,” the New York Times report said.
Marcos’ claims were so outrageous that a former Army captain who was responsible for guerrilla activities in the Philippines during the war told the Times, ‘”Marcos was never the leader of a large guerrilla organization, no way. … This is not true, no. Holy cow. All of this is a complete fabrication. It’s a cock-and-bull story.”
Bongbong Marcos will have to come up with a story more outrageous than an Oxford degree before we can start comparing him to his father.
Visit the Kuwento page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/boyingpimentel
On Twitter @boyingpimentel