Friday, August 14, 2009

The Trial of Willard

A known figure in our place was implicated in the recent killing of one of the leutenants of his political rival and this was aired through our radio interview with the victim’s widow. Our interviewee merely focused on her supplemental affidavit as evidence for the filing of a criminal case against said influential patron in the Department of Justice or DOJ. Details of her accusations were not discussed. Days after the show, a long-lost friend told me what we have done is “trial by publicity”. Though I am not a lawyer I told him : “I don’t think so!”. And he called me name in Tagalog synonymous with male private body part. Before, I had a high respect for this friend of mine (let us just call him Willard). But now, with his concept of “trial by publicity”, and his recent affiliations, he’s nothing but a laboratory rat to me!

It is difficult to strike a balance between protecting the right to a fee trial and safeguarding the right of free expression. True, the former necessarily entails some curtailment of the information that may be aired (or disseminated) about a party prior to trial. If there is no such limits, the result would be the practical nullification of the protective effect of specific legal rules including the exclusionary rules of evidence. But on the other hand, there are vital social interests served by the right to information. The public has the right to know about legitimate public interest in matters of general concerns.

For Willard, any news that would put his boss in bad light is “trial by publicity”. But I understand Willard, my little nice mouse. His knowing and meaning of “trial by publicity” is constrained by something called channel capacity. Channel capacity is the information-handling ability of any given means of communication. Have you ever wondered what it feels to be a laboratory rat?

Suppose I am a rat named Vhu. And you know that we, rats,- have no cone cells. Cone cells in humans are the cells responsible for the color vision. And as we all know, I, Vhu, of rodent specie and the rest of my race do not have cone cells. This physical limitations deprive us of what to you is a whole dimension of visual sensation. So I, Vhu,- the rat, think that everything I see is all grey. I know this is true. I am mislead? If so, by whom? What can I do about it? There are no answer to these questions and that is why I pity my friend, Willard. His limited finite brain is not capable of telling him about color; and so he cannot know it and cannot even argue with the existence of colors. Be it red, white or blue. The very notion of color is meaningless to him. How much more with his notion and definition of “trial by publicity”?

But my beloved friend,Willard, is not a rat. He is a human being ...
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