In recent days, we’ve all followed the testimony of Jun Lozada in venues that range from Senate, where his testimony has been given under oath, to the media, whether on the radio or on TV.
You and I, every one of us, has an opinion on whether he’s been credible or not. But you and I have also evaluated what he’s said, on the basis of people who make a profession of evaluation testimony.
So it’s witness analysis night on The Explainer. Not in terms of what Jun Lozada has said, but how lawyers go about dissecting what witnesses have to say. I’m Manolo Quezon.
I. The prevalence of deceit
No principle has inspired so much lying as the truth. Winston Churchill even said the truth should be defended by “a bodyguard of lies.”
We use these bodyguards every day.
Sometimes, lies are used to avoid embarrassment in a non-confrontational culture. Think of all the little white lies we say.
Sometimes, it’s to protect state secrets, how armies in World War II sometimes accepted taking casualties in a battle, rather than reveal they knew the enemies plans beforehand, and risk the enemy knowing their secret codes had been broken.
But very briefly, let’s just agree on a layman’s definition of the truth, and what constitutes a lie.
noun ( pl. truths |tro?ðz; tro??s|)
the quality or state of being true : he had to accept the truth of her accusation.
• (also the truth) that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality : tell me the truth | she found out the truth about him.
• a fact or belief that is accepted as true : the emergence of scientific truths | the fundamental truths about mankind.
lie 2 |la?| |l??|
an intentionally false statement : Mungo felt a pang of shame at telling Alice a lie | the whole thing is a pack of lies.
• used with reference to a situation involving deception or founded on a mistaken impression : all their married life she had been living a lie.
We Filipinos, do we love to lie, or do we simply hate to tell the truth? Do we lie at all or do we prefer to sidestep the truth?
What does our audience think?
I bring this up, because in the case of people who become star witnesses like Jun Lozada, he’s actually undergoing two kinds of scrutiny.
The first is according to the scrutiny provided by law, or at least, the rules followed by institutions such as the courts or the Senate.
The second is according to the ways you and I, as human beings, go about sizing each other up. And the ways we do so, that are unique to our culture.
As human beings, we use all sorts of cues: whether pupils dilate, if people can look us in the eye, their overall demeanor. As humans, we use tools, too: a polygraph measures your heart rate, or bloodpressure or even how much you’re sweating, and the person operating it uses a combination of questions to which the answers are already known, to the things that the test is supposed to help discover as either true or false.
Jun Lozada is now the poster boy of people who say they love the truth, so how do we know he isn’t just a gifted liar?
This is a bothersome question for us all, because we tend to view the truth as something that rarely makes itself evident in anything political, like a Senate hearing, where instead we tend to believe lies not only dominate, but are the only things that matter to the key players.
F.G. Bailey put it this way in a passage from this book, “The Prevalence of Deceit,” I’d like to ask you to read, Pat:
But truths, at least in politics, at least in politics, are not just for entertainment; they purport to be plans to cope with a real world. They provide a basis for action, and we get the results back in the form of experience.
That is why politicians believe (or say they believe) in the idea of an objective truth, standing opposed to error and deceit. It guides them in what they do. Politicians have minds, they would argue, and politicians think, but politicians are not merely thinkers, contemplating the world; they are also movers and shakers, molding and changing that world. But then they confound us and each other by throwing into the ring so many incompatible versions of the truth that it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to know which “truth” is the real truth, or even, failing that, whether one “truth” is any better than another.
– F.G. Bailey in The Prevalence of Deceit
Now in this book, Bailey wrote that we can classify the truth in various ways.
There’s “Layman’s truth,” the way you and I understand it. It’s true, or not. And the truest things are the things we know from firsthand knowledge and experience.
There’s “Syntactical truth,” something that’s true according to the logic and rules of words.
Either way, however one defines the truth, there are methods to arrive at it. In science you would prove something true or false, by means of experiments whose results disproves a theory, or validates it by being repeated with predictable results. In the realm of ideas, you propose a thesis, someone proposes an antitheses, and arriving at a synthesis which leads you, hopefully, closer to the ultimate truth.
Bailey also says there are different kinds of lies and lying.
There’s Collusive lying, that is, a decision by two parties to act according to a lie both knows exists.
There are what Bailey calls Lies to Adversaries, the lies told to rivals to preserve some sort of advantage.
In the face of how complicated both the truth and lies can be, let’s ask this.
How do lawyers, a profession to which many of our political leaders belong, go about determining if a lawyer is credible, and whether the truth or lies are being told?
Do they do it in different ways and use these varying methods, in different venues?
That’s what we’ll find out when we return.
II. Witnesses in the dock
So let’s go to how lawyers handle the truth. In “The Prevalence of Deceit,” F.G. Bailey quotes from the transcripts of a 1920 British parliamentary commission, where Gandhi was asked to testify.
Pat, can you play the wily lawyer and I’ll read the responses of Gandhi?
Counsel: However honestly a man may strive in his search for truth, his notions of truth may be different from the notions of others. Who then is to determine the truth?
Gandhi: The individual himself would determine that.
Counsel: Different individuals would have different views as to truth. What that not lead to confusion?
Gandhi: I do not think so.
Now Gandhi was a lawyer, but was he responding as the mystical Gandhi, or the British law-trained Gandhi?
At this point I thought I’d bring in a pro: a real life lawyer and blogger.
When embattled politicians say, bring it to court, are they being wily or insisting on the proper forum?
Is the court of public opinion, where so much testimonial drama’s currently being played out, an inferior court?
The answer lies in the one saying it: the politician who knows better than most, that a public official lives and dies by public opinion, and who then insists that charges of wrongdoing be brought to the courts, is not a liar per se; the politician is merely being dishonest.
Did you ever hear that public office is a public trust?
Trust is gained, then maintained or lost. Unlike life, liberty, or even property, no one has an inalienable right to political office: either acquiring it, or keeping it.
In matters of law, no person should be judge, jury, and executioner. Yet there is one area of life where this doesn’t apply, and it’s in the court of public opinion. You, the citizen, are judge and jury, and in your hands and your hands alone, is the choice whether you will swing the axe, or grant a pardon to an official, a witness, a person in the public sphere, who is asking you to give them your trust.