Pseudo-trial

What happens when social media takesover the justice system?

As per the Julian Assange case in Britain where the WikiLeaks founder may find out about his fate through the social networking site, could the same thing be envisaged here? Could the use of social media be the same as serving notice to the parties to a trial?

Imagine what would have happened in the case involving Gloria Arroyo’s hold departure order if that had happened? The government’s excuse that it had not received a copy of the decision would not have been available if the decision had been uploaded immediately and tweeted to the court’s “followers” within minutes.

The trial of Chief Justice Corona too could be determined by the media (including Facebook and Twitter). Once cannot discount the possibility of an Arab Spring-like uprising taking place in the aftermath of the trial. Since the prosecution seems to be facing strong headwinds, the conduct of a separate trial by citizen’s groups and netizens in the public arena including the blogosphere seems to be suffering no setbacks.

Forget about establishing the “facts” of the case in the formal court, this is all about shaping the minds of the jurors in the court of public opinion. Call it forum shopping if you like, but parties to this impeachment trial do not feel compelled to abide by the “rules of the game”… so much for strengthening the “rule of law” and “institution-building”.

All this wouldn’t sit too well with senator-judges who are hoping to make an impartial decision based on evidence. What we are witnessing is the mirroring of the justice system in the trial by the senate, where poor evidence gathering, poor homework lays a poor foundation for the prosecution, which inevitably leads to a poor conviction rate.

Except that in this case it is a trial by jury, and the jurors, unlike a proper court, are not restricted from reading (and discussing) the news related to their case. As such, their decision will ultimately reflect the biases formed in the gallery. In a proper court, this would be grounds for a mistrial, but in this pseudo version of Law and Order, the rabble run the show.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy (www.thecusponline.org) and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • “…so much for strengthening the “rule of law” and “institution-building”.—Doy

    This impeachment trial is a political exercise and not so much about “rule of law” and “institution-building”, Doy. The prosecutors were playing to the gallery perhaps, the gallery being the Filipino people who are watching. So what. If the prosecution can show and proved to the “gallery” and to the senators/jurors that Corona is truly a chief justice of the Supreme Court who dispensed justice without the blindfold, then so be it. Corona must be convicted and removed as Chief Justice. If it can also be proven that Corona violated the constitution, the more so.

    The trial is being covered by the broadcast and print media and open to public viewing, the “gallery” if you will. The “gallery” will judge.

    • Anonymous

      The problem, Roberto, is when lack-of-truth gets dispensed. 

      Literally,  one can drown in propaganda, won’t you think so? Thank goodness the Persidente is mabait and every once in a while, he reminds the Pill-pinos of his love-life  so Pill-pinos can forget about the flood-projects to prevent Ondoy and also that H/L stockholders asking for over 16 times what the Corona court has ruled to be payment-per-hectare for luisita land.