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Political Philosophy:

Social Contract in the Context of the Philippine Media

(Reflective Paper)

Submitted by:
Milcielo Claire S. Villamayor
Second Semester AY 2012-2013

Submitted to:
Prof. Roberto Tangco
College of Social Science and Philosophy
University of the Philippines Diliman

Political Philosophy is basically the study of human social organization and the
nature of man in a society. Moreover, it is concerned with the study of the state, how it is
formed, the citizens and political concepts such as justice, the concept of the good and the
bad, liberty, property, rights, laws, and other concepts concerning the people and the
For the past semester, we were introduced with different political philosophies of
Plato, Aristotle and Thomas Hobbes. One major question that is usually asked or pondered
on political philosophy is the government. Needless to say, having only studied selected
works of these three philosophers would not suffice to fully evaluate and assess what kind
of government would be best implemented in a certain society. From studying these three
texts, however, I am able to understand the core elements in formulating concepts and
ideologies concerning politics.
Arguably, these philosophies are usually grounded upon the philosopher’s personal
and societal experience, as in the case of Thomas Hobbes, wherein his work Leviathan is
greatly influenced by his growing up during the political turmoil in the twentieth century
in England. I realized that in order to answer certain questions concerning political
philosophies, one must take into the consideration the cultural and historical context, and
even way of living, of the subject of thought. Regarding the question on which kind of
government to be implemented is best, Hobbes’ answer would be monarchy, for he based
this from his personal, cultural, and historical experience as an English man. However,
other people may not necessarily agree with him. It follows then that there really is no
universal best form of government as it would vary from one society to another.
One prominent concept of political philosophy especially in modern times is the
idea of social contract. According to Hobbes’ Leviathan, a social contract is the agreement
among men from which arises a government primarily responsible for the preservation of
life of the subjects. Nevertheless, we first see the theory of social contract in Plato’s Republic
in Book II when Glaucon presented a definition of justice using a social contract definition
for the nature of justice, thus: to avoid receiving unjust acts from others, people would
submit themselves to have a social contract with one another. Such is the case, justice then
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becomes a result of the agreement between men in order to avoid injustice. This notion
was however rejected by Plato for justice is more than just obeying and following laws and
agreements but it should be a state of a good soul by which a man can attain his happiness.
In essence, Plato acknowledges the idea of a social contract but he, nevertheless, he refuses
to recognize this as a source of justice. Aristotle on the other hand also uses the theory of
social contract albeit implicitly. According to him, men do not form political associations
simply for survival but also to attain each and every one’s telos with the help of a state.
Although he did not explain the formation of a polity through contract, he does say that in
order to make a government work, it should be aligned with the virtues and attributes of
men in the society to actually attain the state’s telos which is to help the citizens reach their
end goal. The theory of social contract then may be found in different forms. It is thus an
important concept in studying political philosophy for it is also helpful in understanding
how people make things work in a society.
If one can contextualize the theory of social contract in the Philippines using
Hobbes’ definition, one can say that there must be something wrong. Primarily, a
government is something that resulted from every one’s agreement to transfer their rights
to a sovereign party trusting the sovereign to preserve and protect the welfare of their lives.
However, we see on the news, stories about children being abducted, robberies,
kidnappings, murders, and other acts of injustice from men towards other men. Even the
government itself and its agencies are the ones accused in certain cases where there are so-
called political detainees, political prisoners, and even extra-judicial killings. Moreover, we
also see the continuous discord in the country especially in Mindanao where certain groups
of people are pushing for the passage of the Bangsamoro law with the framework agreement
already signed by the government.
One may then ask, are we still expected to follow the commonwealth of the
Philippines when there are striking signs that it may not be performing is function well in
implementing laws that should govern the subjects and ensure everyone’s safety from each
other? On another hand, these circumstances can also been seen in a way where the
subjects are actually the one at fault for they do not follow the agreement by which they
are to give up their natural rights to the sovereign who would be the one to see to it that
everyone is protected.
One characteristic of a commonwealth, according to Hobbes, is that the subjects are
in fear whether to the sovereign person himself or of one another and that’s why they abide
by the rules and law of the state. The way I see it, however, is that most people in the
country are not afraid to break laws especially of they know that they could get away with
it. One best example of this is in the implementation of simple traffic rules. Most motorists
aren’t actually afraid to break rules for they know that they could get away with it if they
just talk to the officer and give a little amount of money to let him off. This scenario may
also be considered a social contract very much similar to Glaucon’s rejected notion of
justice based on social contract for in this case both parties are indeed in agreement. In this
case, they are being unjust and is the very reason why Plato vehemently rejects the idea of
social contract as a definition for justice.
The question then lies whether the theory of social contract would be plausible in
the Philippine context especially since it’s apparent that the sovereign is not strong enough
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to force the subjects in following the agreement between the sovereign and each and every
subject to ensure the protection of everyone. The only time there was a strong enough ruler
to instill fear in the Philippine subjects was during the time of Marcos but even then the
situation was chaotic and even more at war than the rest of regimes in the country. This
may be attributed for the nature of the Filipinos who believe that everyone should have
unrestricted liberty but then again, as also what is mentioned in the Leviathan, too much
liberty may still cause war. I personally believe that Marcos was successful at least in the
sense of instilling fear to the Filipinos and in making them follow the rules. However, his
ways might have been too extreme in which the liberty-loving and democracy-seeking
Filipinos got turned off. But then again, the current kind of government is also not working
out well if the news on the television is to be looked at. Seeing as such is the case, what
then would be the best form of government in the Philippines? Would the theory of social
contract actually be applicable in the Philippine setting? Indeed, there could be no
universal best form of government and that the same can only be identified by the cultural
and historical context of the country and of the people who reside in it.
Applying political philosophy in my discipline, as a Mass Communication student,
may seem farfetched. In fact a lot of people ask me why I have taken this subject on
Philosophy when it was not required and when it was a far subject from my course.
Originally, I’ve taken up the subject because, for some reason, I liked my previous
Philosophy class (even though it required tons of readings), and also because I wanted some
background on politics for future purposes. Some people may find it hard to connect
political philosophy with media but it is actually very simple.
Essentially, the media is considered as the fourth estate of the government next to
the executive, legislative and judiciary braches of the state. It can be considered as an
alternative check and balance to the government for it sees everything from every branch
and ideally there should be no bias in the representation of these branches of government.
Media is also a venue for expressing and influencing public opinion for media is a public
sphere, moreover, the media also inform the public of the government policies. Such is the
case, media actually holds some kind of indirect power over the people thus taking up
political philosophy as a subject helps in understanding further the media.
Like any modern society or association, the media industry also engages in various
social contracts with the people by which it serves upon. First and foremost, the media have
a social contract in its audience wherein it should stay true to the nature of the program in
exchange for the audience’s patronage. For example, news programs have the responsibility
to report nothing but the truth to the audience, with no personal bias and partiality in its
stories. This is the very reason why a certain program is more trusted by the audience than
the others because through experience the audience gets to decide which of the programs
offered by different television stations cater better to their interest than the other
programs. Such is also the case with other TV programs like television dramas or variety
shows wherein people choose to watch the programs based on the merits of the show and
how the show is able to give them what they want from it. In exchange, the producers of
the show get patronage from the audience. Once the program starts to veer away with its
nature and purpose, the audience will likely be turned off and suspend their support to the
show. For example, if the show is intended to be a light comedy drama which already got a
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steady audience for being as such, when the show suddenly starts to become a heavy drama
for the sake of prolonging the show, it does not stay true to its original format and thus
they risk the loss of support from the followers of the show.
Aside from the audience, the media also holds social contracts with the different
advertisers which fund each show. It is an undeniable fact that money is required in
producing programs, thus, advertising serves as the backbone of the industry for without
it there would be limitations especially in the quality of the productions. Such is the case,
when an advertiser places ad on a program, the producers of that program have the
responsibility to sustain its quality in order for the both parties to achieve their goal and
that is for the producers of the show to have capital for the production and for the
advertisers to gain profits from placing ads in the show. Moreover, the media also holds a
social contract between the subjects of its stories where the media is expected to give the
most true and unbiased representation of the subjects and his stories such as the case of
the government officials, political figures and even the common people in the sense that
by giving the media the authority to make stories about their lives, experiences or work,
the media is expected to safeguard the honor and dignity of these people. In general, social
contracts, direct or indirect, are always there, especially in the media where the main drive
of the institutions is profit.
Due to this profit-driven nature of media, however, it becomes difficult to assess
whether or not there is justice among its constituents and even the practitioners
themselves. Let us first look into how things work in a production. A production team
consists of people who work as directors, writers, editors, production designers, lights
directors and others with each person assigned to a specific task such as directing, writing,
supervising etc. Following Plato’s definition of justice where in order to achieve it one must
do what he is supposed to do, justice in the production in the sense that the process goes
smoothly, comes from the collective effort from everyone in the team who did their specific
jobs well. On the other hand, if one follows Hobbes definition of justice wherein injustice
arises from non-performance of the contract, one can say that there would be justice
between the media and the people by whom it is related to; so long as it stays true to the
social contract it has with the people involved. The disparity then comes in the Aristotelian
concept of moderation in achieving one’s telos or end goal.
Ultimately, the media’s end goal is to serve its audience and to cater to its
informative, and even entertainment needs. Profit then should not be the sole motivation
for productions; however we see that this is not the case especially in the Philippines.
Notice that most of the television programs especially dramas are formulaic in the sense
that each and every program have the same elements such as twins being separated at birth,
kidnapping of the main character, interconnecting and complicated family ties with the
leading man and lady, snob mother of the rich son, among others. Such is the case, the
media landscape in the Philippines becomes bland and void of creative innovations. The
audiences then are constantly fed with the same material over and over again only with
different actors and packaging but essentially still the same. All of this is a consequence of
the producers being afraid to invest in new things aside from those tried and tested
formulas that are already sure to bring in profit for the institution. However, by being
obsessed with profit, these media institutions void the viewers a variety of programs which
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they could enjoy and thus defeat the purpose of serving the interest of the audience; rather
they only serve their own selfish interest. Following this, it can be said that there is injustice
then for these media institutions do not try to attain and actually fail at reaching their telos
which is ultimately to serve the people and not their own interest.
In the end, the study of political philosophy is useful in understanding things and
how they work, regardless of the context, whether it be in the context of work dynamics or
government dealings. This is especially true when what is aimed to be understood involves
people. As Aristotle has mentioned, men are by nature political animals, and such, anything
that involves people are political by nature.