Veteran journalism and communication educator Crispin C. Maslog called on Thomasians to protect the country’s democracy and resist assaults on human rights and press freedom as he delivered the 50th St. Thomas More Lecture at the Medicine Auditorium.
Maslog, chairman of the Asian Media and Information Center, reminded students, faculty and administrators of the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the dedication of their patron, St. Thomas More, to the rule of law.
He pointed out that Thomas More rejected legal shortcuts and was even willing to give the devil the “benefit of law,” citing the famous scene in the movie “A Man for All Seasons.” The English lawyer and humanist More, the patron saint of statesmen and politicians, was portrayed by actor Paul Scofield in the 1966 film.
“St. Thomas More said: ‘When the last law is down and when the devil turns around on you, where would you hide, the laws all being gone? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast. And when you cut them all down, can you stand upright? Yes. I will give the devil the benefit of the doubt for my own safety’s sake,’” Maslog said. Maslog condemned government efforts to clamp down on media outfits as well as the proliferation of organized trolls and “fake news.” “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.
Arts and Letters Dean Michael Anthony Vasco, in his welcome remarks, said the postmodern society has made efforts to safeguard the truth a formidable challenge. “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. First Filipino journalist with a doctorate.
Maslog graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters with a Bachelor of Literature in Journalism degree, Magna cum Laude, in 1956; and with a Bachelor of Philosophy in 1960, the year when he became news editor of The Varsitarian. Fresh out of University, he was hired as copy editor of Agence France-Presse, the French news agency, in Manila.
Later, Maslog obtained a Fulbright/ Smith Mundt full scholarship, to study for a master’s degree in journalism and a doctorate in mass communication, at the University of Minnesota, one of the top schools for journalism and communication in the United States. In 1967, he returned to the Philippines as the first Filipino journalist with a doctorate in journalism and mass communication. Silliman University hired him and Maslog became the first director of the newly established School of Journalism and Communication in that university. The school became a center for community journalism, reputedly the first and the best outside Manila at the time.
Maslog then founded the weekly Negros Express in Dumaguete City, where he served as publisher and columnist. Negros Express was the laboratory paper of the journalism students of Silliman. He also wrote for the Philippines Herald and The Manila Times, and was a broadcaster for radio station DYSR in Dumaguete City.
From Silliman, Maslog moved to the University of the Philippines Los Baños in 1982, and served as professor of the College of Development Communication. Upon retirement in 1988, he became senior vice president and dean of the Graduate School of the Asian Institute of Journalism in Manila, where he continues to serve as senior consultant. He received The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) award for Journalism in 1955.
The St. Thomas More Lecture is the most prestigious lecture-forum in Arts and Letters. Its distinguished roster of speakers include, among others, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the late former senator Edgardo Angara, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, former Finance Secretary Jesus Estanislao, National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera and F. Sionil Jose.