is what Marine Le Pen is being investigated for (link). Simply alleging things without proof, like in the Philippines, is not the norm in Europe. The report says “the center-right mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, filed suit against Le Pen for accusing him of associating with Islamist militants in 2015”. In the Philippines, a Justice Secretary can allege similar things about opposition parlamentarians, or a President can tag mayors in drug lists just like that. In Germany, Section 187 Criminal Code says (link):
Whosoever intentionally and knowingly asserts or disseminates an untrue fact related to another person, which may defame him or negatively affect public opinion about him or endanger his creditworthiness shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding two years or a fine, and, if the act was committed publicly, in a meeting or through dissemination of written materials (section 11(3)) to imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine.
Law in Germany is understandable not only to lawyers. Therefore I know that my previous article did not violate Section 104 (link) even if some Filipinos saw the use of a tattered flag as a provocation. Only tearing up a real Philippine flag, especially in front of an Embassy, would qualify. Somewhat like in this conservative country, I cannot do what Pussy Riot did in Russia – or Carlos Celdran did in the Philippines – insult ANY religion inside a place of worship. One need not be ignorant of the rules here.
Back to defamation. Of course there is the usual gossip in villages and in parts of town over here in Germany. “She’s a bitch, everyone knows her second kid isn’t from her husband”. “He stole money from the lotto club”. As long as nobody bears witness to such conversations, no prosecutor or judge touches that. And I wonder about people who constantly say bad things about others, how bad they must be inside to bear such ill-will. In fact people of that sort tend to be avoided by the more educated in society.
But stuff about De Lima and Bilibid drugs was in the Facebook feeds of some college-educated Filipinos for years before she was – in my opinion – framed up by Aguirre. Now I am labelling my opinion as an opinion, not as a fact. Not even Aguirre could take me to court under Section 187 if he wanted to – for all I know he might be right! There is a principle in modern societies that is called fairness. Something I guess we had to learn the hard way, after centuries of Inquisitions and witch hunts of all sorts.
The extreme was called Feme (link) by which murders of prominent Jewish politicians in the 1920s were preceded by public defamation of the worst sort. Feme used to be the term for summary courts which could even condemn people in absentia (link). For outlaws killed due to a Vehmic court order, a knife was placed beside the person. Not a gun, and definitely not cardboard or masking/packing tape. That was from the 1200s, mostly in the 1300-1400s, until finally abolished in the times of Napoleon.
In the Philippines, there is a prosecutor making death threats against Vice-President Robredo (link) which is even more than just defamation. Or Sass Sasot who says Carlos Celdran is supporting Leni to get help on his court case (link) just because she thinks it is so, no proof offered whatsoever. The assumption that a President can influence courts, against the separation of powers, is interesting. Isn’t like that on paper in the Philippines. But that Sasot thinks it is possible is very interesting. Hmm.
Truth is hard to find out. In the village or in a part of town one knows, one can indeed verify with some horse sense whether the things people are saying are likely. One can then decide to avoid the person – or those spreading the gossip. In a larger context, one cannot be sure. This is why modern laws protect people against vile insinuations. This is why there is such a thing as due process. Even in villages, I wonder how many women were stoned or hanged as witches just because they were not liked by many.
“Perception is only truth to those without deductive reasoning” (link) says not Sherlock Holmes, but Gang Badoy Capati. There are a few representatives of rationality in the Philippines, which has mostly not yet gone through the Enlightenment. A place where some far out arguments pass muster which would elicit amazement even in one of my favorite old TV series, Königlich Bayerisches Amtsgericht or Royal Bavarian District Court (link). So is the fear of an EU rule of law audit (link) understandable?
Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 16. July 2017