LONDON - Filipino human rights film “Dukot” ends its European tour here following a string of public screenings and talks around the continent.
Launched in The Netherlands in October, the film toured Europe for over a month with stops in Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy, before concluding in England around Human Rights Day on December 10.
The London screening was attended by a multicultural crowd of concerned citizens, from seasoned activists to young professionals without prior knowledge of human rights issues. Consul General Maria Theresa Dizon-de Vega from the Philippine Embassy in London was also in attendance to support the event.
Directed by Joel Lamangan with an all-star cast, “Dukot” follows the story of a young couple from the Philippines who were abducted, tortured, abused and slaughtered by armed government crooks, seemingly because of their involvement with political activism.
“We want to highlight human rights abuses and violations in the Philippines, and “Dukot” chronicles this in dramatic form. It’s a powerful way for people to appreciate it, rather than just reading news stories or opinion pieces,” said Mark Dearn from Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP), who co-organized the event.
He added: “It’s a problem that’s endemic to Philippine politics. The victims are anybody who decides to challenge the state, and that can be anybody from armed rebels, all the way to the average student. I don’t think you can get anything more pressing than when a government oppresses its own citizens in that way.”
The screenings were part of an ongoing international awareness campaign for human rights issues in the Philippines, particularly from the last 10 years. Prior to its European tour, the film has been shown in various countries in East Asia and North America, and was an official selection in the 2009 Montreal Film Festival.
“[The film] functions very well in the level of raising awareness for those who aren’t aware of these issues,” explained Dearn. “Awareness and global attention seems to have an effect on the incidences of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings. When Global Awareness focused on this issue, there was a drop-off in the number of enforced disappearances and killings. Unfortunately, this has risen up again towards the end of Arroyo’s regime.”
According to a report by Philippine-based independent organization Karapatan, thousands of innocent activists have fallen victim to human rights violations under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a trend that seems to have continued through to the new Aquino administration (see table below).
“[Dukot] is a good educational tool. It gives me knowledge of the reality of being an activist. I think there is nothing wrong in trying to voice out our opinions, and that is what we call freedom of speech,” observed Josefa Aaliyah Cassandra, a UK-based Filipino health professional and equal rights activist, who was moved by the film’s message.
She added: “We have to help those activists in the Philippines, and try to educate them that our voices can still be heard by expressing them in a more civilized manner. But also for the government to understand that there is nothing wrong in trying to voice your opinion or campaigning for what should be right, especially for the oppressed.”
Though definitive solutions to these problems remain elusive even to campaigners, there is an overwhelming sense of urgency to their message of acknowledging and addressing human rights issues, a call for action directed towards fellow Filipinos, the international community, and the Philippine government itself.
“If we’re truly going to be a democracy, these sort of things shouldn’t really happen, and the army shouldn’t really have the sort of power that it seems to have,” explained Fernando Santiago from nonprofit organization Kanlungan, co-organizers of the London event.
He concluded: “Having the authorities in the Philippines be called to answer for the fact that the world is watching, and wants change, and wants the Philippines to join the rest of the democratic world, these things have to be addressed and not just be swept under the carpet.”
The activists are urging the newly elected President Benigno Aquino III, who himself comes from a family with firsthand experience of human rights abuse, to address these concerns in the hope of making positive changes in socio-political affairs in the Philippines.
Recorded Human Rights Violations in the Philippines, 2001-2010
||UNDER GMA PRESIDENCY
||UNDER AQUINO PRESIDENCY
Source: KARAPATAN, 2010 Year-End Report on Human Rights in the Philippines (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)