OpinionsSydney ConnectionBegging the question

Begging the question


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SYDNEY,AUSTRALIA–Who watches the watchmen? Who guards the guardians? Plato posed the essential problem in his book The Republic written in 380 BC. The perfect society, Plato postulated, relies on laborers, slaves and tradesmen. The guardian class is to protect the people. Who will protect the people against (abuse of) the protectors? Plato answered, they will guard themselves against themselves. To attain this the guards must believe in a noble lie. The noble lie requires them to believe that they are better than those they serve. Therefore it is their responsibility to guard and protect those lesser than themselves. The noble lie is necessary to bond an orderly and cohesive society.

Who watches the watchmen? Karapatan, an alliance for the advancement of people’s rights, is asking the same question in accusing the local media persons as spokesmen of the provincial police and military commands. The bone of contention is one Jonathan Alforque killed in a military-rebel encounter. The military identified Alforque as a Karapatan leader. Karapatan clarified Alforque was not a member of the alliance.

Claim and counter-claim are not enough. Karapatan is accusing the local media of being irresponsible by allowing themselves to be witting spokespersons of the police and the military especially in the case of Judy Flores Partlow. Karapatan fears irresponsible media reporting could spark the killing of innocent human rights workers. Not content with venting its fears, Karapatan lectured the local media on Journalism’s Code of Ethics.

It is rather strange that a human right worker will know more of the Journalism Code of Ethics than the journalist herself. Stranger still that human rights workers can apply the journalistic ethics more than the daily practitioners themselves. That is rather making the obvious very apparent.

What is obviously necessary here is to realize that when a human rights worker points an accusing finger to a media person for irresponsible reporting four fingers are accusing him back. In this case, one finger is making tulisok back. One local media person has accused Karapatan-Cebu of arrogance and self importance while trying to get its side of a news story. One claim. Guilty of stereotyping. But then it is the same stereotyping Karapatan is guilty of.

Who watches the watchmen? That is begging the question. That is to reach conclusion without the burden of proof. At best a circular reasoning, but still fallacious. How can a media person be irresponsible by just reporting the information from the source without any comment? How can a media person be irresponsible by being a sister-in-law to the police provincial commander?

Apparently the noble lie is not working in an imperfect society. That is what RTC Judge Rafael Crescencio Tan has realized when he challenged drugs law enforcers to catch the big fishes of the illegal drugs trade in the province. It breaks the Judge’s heart to see small-time drug offenders go to jail while the big-time drugs pushers remain scot-free. The small time offenders are most likely to be convicted for lack of money to hire good lawyers. Just like the three Filipino drugs mules arrested, tried, convicted and executed in China. Their controllers from the Drugs Syndicate have remained unidentified and scot-free.

Whether in the Philippines or China, the guardians are giving a bad name to the noble lie. Apparently they are only good for the small time and powerless. The right questions therefore deserved to be asked. In an intended perfect society with imperfect people, who wields the ultimate power? Who is incorruptible worthy of wielding the ultimate power? But then, that is beggaring the question altogether.

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