THE chairman of Asia’s top communications think-tank spoke out on Thursday against “assaults” to democracy, due process and the press, warning that legal shortcuts were a slippery slope to authoritarianism.
“Even drug addicts and a chief justice of the Supreme Court deserve due process,” said Crispin Maslog, a veteran newsman and educator, drawing a parallel between extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and moves to unseat Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno outside of the impeachment process.
Maslog delivered the 50th St. Thomas More Lecture at the Faculty of Art and Letters of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila, in honor of the English martyr and statesman and the anniversary of the country’s biggest liberal arts college.
More, Maslog recalled, was even willing to give the devil the “benefit of law,” as the law was for everyone’s protection.
Maslog, chairman of the Asian Media and Information Center, also lamented government threats to cancel the licences or franchises of traditional media like the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN, amid the proliferation of internet trolls, fake news and “networked disinformation.”
“To keep our democracy alive and robust, we need to keep our public sphere open. We should allow all stakeholders in our way of life and in our government free access to our marketplace of thought,” he said.
“Cyber-bullying on social media by an army of trolls who blindly obey the command of their social media influencers is not conducive to free democratic debate,” he added.
Philosophy professor Michael Anthony Vasco, UST Arts and Letters dean, said safeguarding the truth was one of the biggest challenges of post-modern and pluralistic society, and pointed out that “truth can be very political.”
“The hegemonies of power and ideology can greatly influence our reception and understanding of truth. Political authority can in fact dictate what is truth,” he said, citing French philosopher Michel Foucault.
“Truth in society, specifically in democratic society, is also determined by personal and ideological interests. Even public opinion is no longer based on reasonable grounds or evidence, or even by common sense, but are shaped by advancing interests that are personal or ideological, making spurious truth claims that intend to confuse the public and divert public opinion from the truth and instead propagate half truths just to change the tide of public opinion to their favor,” he said.