Saturday, 7 March 2015

"Why the paranoia?"

"Why the paranoia?"

(Or all after an incident involving film-makers 
and those "keeping peace and order")

Its been few weeks ago when reports about Policemen unjustly entered and harassed people participating in a film showing event at a memorial centre in Quezon City.

As last February 28, a group of filmmakers, including JL Burgos, the son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr, hosted a film screening event entitled: ‘Sine Henerasyon’ . The event featured social-realist inclined documentaries like JL Burgos’ Portraits of Mosquito Press, which documents the struggle to assert press freedom during the Marcos dictatorship, Ilang-Ilang Quijano’s Daughters of Cordillera, about activists among the Philippines’ indigenous Igorot people, and Ej Mijares’ Shapes of Crimson, a film about a veteran artist and cultural activist Bonifacio Ilagan.

However, that incident happened that same day as according to the reports, JL Burgos said a patrol car arrived at 10:00 a.m. in the area. The policemen supposedly told them that they intended to “sweep” the place since a VIP was set to arrive later in the day.

Two members, armed with assault rifles, remained near the venue. However, a VIP supposedly did not arrive. But instead, Another group of policemen supposedly arrived at 4:30 p.m. and asked the organizers anew of the event’s intent, trying to "watch" one of the featured films as well as further questioned organisers if the films were about the New People’s Army. They also left two officers behind when they departed.

But at 8:00 pm a third patrol car arrived at the venue and officers grilled staff again about the event’s organisers. When Burgos’ and the other filmmakers confronted the officers (even asked if they are undertaking an "intelligence gathering"), they did not explain their motives and left shortly after.

Ironically, JL Burgos is a brother of the still missing Jonas Burgos. And the incident that happened at the Bantayog did reflect the paranoia taken by the system that made harassments possible including those of a film-maker or a media practitioner. The place in which the policemen afford to invade and harass features scenes, personalities, files during the Martial Law period, in which most people be described as a dark age for press freedom and self-expression.

And if one of the cops had afforded to ask irritating questions and trying to conclude that those works are subversive (and hence be liable for arrest), then what makes the works subversive? If realities made by the system made the works subversive then there is something wrong in that system not the ones against it. If works such as Burgos or Quijano did provoke critical thinking towards viewers, of seeking truth from facts, them the system whom desperately trying to maintain order simply describing them as subversives, or worse terrorists and be liable for persecution. Of what is freedom if it does not include the right to dissent?

Come to think of this, harassments such as that event and other related incidents mocks the junking of the anti subversion law decades ago, if not the rights guaranteed by the fundamental laws of the land. Journalists and media practitioners alike are end up dead if not doing their acts clandestinely or in exile just to seek truth from facts and make people be well informed on their works. But again, vigilance is a duty for the practitioner, as what NUJP Chairperson, Rowena Paraan said:

 “By lying about the reason for their presence in the first instance and the questions they asked when they returned that afternoon, it was clear that the QCPD personnel were out to intimidate the organisers of what, to them, probably constituted a “subversive” activity that shouldn’t have been allowed at all.”

“We demand that the QCPD, at the very least, apologize to the ‘Sine Henerasyon’ organisers. But to ensure that such a display of official arrogance is never repeated, we call on the leadership of the Philippine National Police to live up to their oaths and investigate posthaste the actions of the QCPD personnel and impose the appropriate sanctions on those responsible for this ill-conceived attempt to stifle free expression."

Again, the anti subversion law has been scrapped, hence nothing is wrong in showing that is contrary to the system and its belief. Second, court documents, such as "Burgos vs. chief of staff" did recognize that no matter how "subversive" it was shown such as a report, a critique, or a movie, least it is still freedom in accordance to the constitution, a right to inform and express actually amidst all threats including from the state. The obvious question is as what the late Justice Abad Santos said:

"Why were the documents, pamphlets, leaflets, books, etc. subversive? What did they contain to make them subversive? There is nothing in the applications nor in the warrants which answers the questions. I must, therefore, conclude that the warrants are general warrants which are obnoxious to the Constitution."

Hence. The movies shown by the son of Mr. Jose Burgos (of Burgos vs. chief of staff) has the right to be shown. Again, the place wherein the cops went and scrutinise around is a place to remember the martyrs whom they call "subversive."

And by the way, since the system and its apologetics love to say pluralism, but when was pluralism be selective? Particularly those of ideas made in favor of the order? No wonder why those who seek truth from facts end pointing eyes against the so-called maintainer of order and peace.