To change my state with kings

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. - The Philippine Star

The rise of two Monarchs in the East may sound like the substance of a Nostradamus quatrain. Never mind that they originate from two distinctly different races and cultures. In the case of both Emperor Naruhito of Japan and King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand, long and historical traditions were shattered easily. This lends itself to images of any variety of apocalyptic conspiracy which are often foreshadowed by similar watershed occurrences. 

But the stories are ultra compelling. Unlike their predecessors with the accidental fortune of living in the shadows, the Emperor and the King grew up with an empowered media that served a voracious public appetite for information. Billions have become acquainted with the romantic stories of their non-conformity and occasional defiance. We learn also about managing the immense pressures of their station, the weight of the responsibilities inherited and the delicate legacies they will be shaping.

There is equal interest in their queens’ narratives. Naruhito was born of a commoner Empress, Michiko. Her family was Roman Catholic in a country where Shinto was the official religion. The new Empress Masako was also a commoner. She has had highly publicized struggles to produce a male heir. The brutal glare has extended to her tribulations with stress related adjustment disorder.

Thailand’s new queen was introduced this week. There is the same Cinderella quality as she was also a commoner. Her background is even more fascinating. Prior to elevation, there was no official acknowledgment of her relationship with the King. The only connection the public knew of was her being deputy head of the King’s security detail. To sensationalist news outlets across the globe, the King married his bodyguard.

A true trove. The richness of these four storylines is enough to fill the pages of several books and periodicals. The successions were virtually “bloodless” but not without its challenges. Entitlement to succeed is given only to male heirs but, even in the misogynist Japanese society, there was a perceptible voice in favor of considering female succession. Emperor Naruhito has only one child, Princess Aiko. In like Monarchies around the world, this more progressive approach has stilled many a contentious mob. See England. The British have succeeded with the world’s most famous monarch, their Queen. 

The reverence of the people for these Symbols of State is also a moving picture. In both Japan and Thailand, virtually the entire population – even the thoroughly modern masses – have welcomed the transitions. After periods of mourning, of celebrating the lives of their beloved former monarchs and allowing their grief to ease, they have dutifully and wilfully embraced their new leaders. Opinion polls affirm their soaring acceptance and popularity. The same polls, however, confirm that – in Japan, at least – around the same number of supportive citizens would also accept a female successor to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Official onion skin. The ascension of the new Queen, Suthida, ipso facto ensconces her within Thailand’s strict Lese Majeste laws. In all the world, Thailand is renowned for being most sensitive to criticism of its monarchs. It is a crime under their criminal code to insult the members of the royal family, subjecting violators to the harshest chastisement. 

We are reminded, as a result, of our own recent efforts to punish those who would disagree with our leaders and express the same by way of outrageous or patently offensive criticism. Critical  commentary is historically protected in our jurisdiction on the premise of freedom of expression needing “breathing space” to survive. To uphold limitations like that imposed by Lese Majeste laws would have a “chilling effect” on public discussion. 

The background is, from Mr. Justice William Brennan in New York Times v Sullivan:“… a profound national commitment … that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open ... to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for … political and social changes desired by the people. …Critics of official conduct may be deterred from voicing their criticism. … to make only statements which ‘steer far wider of the unlawful zone.’ The rule thus dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate.” 

Food for thought. The Supreme Court would later hold that even ‘’speech that is patently offensive and is intended to inflict emotional injury’’ on public figures is protected if it does not include false statements made without regard for whether they are false.”

Framed against this backdrop, we consider the actuations of government in arresting this Rodel Jayme on suspicion of having uploaded the videos linking the President and his family to the narcotics trade. Surely, this insistence on the arrest (without a warrant) shows how far we have come from a democracy that should be celebrating the citizens’ right to criticize. 

Sorkin’s Andy Shepherd, once again: “You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

Mayor Sara won’t even dignify this uploader with attention. At least someone gets it. Ateneo Law resurgent. Congratulations to all who took the 2018 Bar examinations. We applaud the 22.07% who were successful. To those who did not make it this time, keep the faith as you will be better prepared as you rise up for the next. Ateneo Law School copped 1st place and 3 of the top 5 spots. La Salle Law has its first Bar placer at 8th place. The law deans must be rejoicing at this latest affirmation of their competitiveness or lack of it in delivering on their mandate. Well done, Bar Examination Chairman Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.

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