'Demagogues' can rise when institutions are weak, SC justice warns

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 12 2018 08:24 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2018 09:53 PM


Associate Justice Marvic Leonen (left, SC file photo) speaks at a forum on disinformation (right photo) on Monday. Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A Supreme Court magistrate on Monday warned of "demagogues" and "fascists" who can arise in a democracy when institutions that guard the truth are weakened.

Closing a 9-hour forum on disinformation, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said these "demagogues" often come across like a messiah bringing promises of "quick fix" to pressing problems of society. 

Leonen said these kinds of leaders take advantage of a time when the dominant public discourse, even in social media, shuns the real concerns of the poor who, despite their right to free speech and expression, do not have the resources to make their voices heard. 

"Deliberations in the institutions that matter -- the academe, media, public offices and perhaps social media -- may be so involved that it has detached us from underlying problems like poverty, a society that valorizes individualism, wealth and a quick fix," he said. 

"Demagogues can arise out of legal frames that are formally democratic. Usually, they take advantage of the exclusion and frustrations of the majority. They offer quick fixes. They prey on the unenlightened and they arise when institutions that deliberate truth are weak," he said.

Leonen said the antidote to a rising demagogue is a patient effort to strengthen the people's critical thinking. He said those with material luxury should be critical, vocal and organized to assist the voiceless. 

In these times, the magistrate left two pieces of advice: patience and perseverance as "there is no quick fix"; and for the "selfie generation," to think beyond one's self. 

"It's not always about you. If you all learn to live with this, then we may guarantee our fundamental freedoms, including the poor, marginalized -- those who are invisible to us," Leonen said.