Review: Documentary 'Delikado' closes Cinemalaya 2022

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 13 2022 04:19 PM

Tata Balladares rests on a fallen tree while searching for illegal loggers in forests of southern Palawan in this April, 2018 photo by Karl Malakunas. Handout
Tata Balladares rests on a fallen tree while searching for illegal loggers in forests of southern Palawan in this April, 2018 photo by Karl Malakunas. Handout


Atty. Bobby Chan heads a non-governmental organization in Palawan province called the Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI). It is a group of individuals who have volunteered to be para-enforcers to protect the environment of Palawan. His efforts are supported by some mayors, like Nieves Rosento of El Nido. As para-enforcers, they cannot arrest people, but they confiscate the gear. In fact, they already have a museum full of confiscated chainsaws.

As altruistic as the endeavors of Atty. Chan and Mayor Rosento may be, they have very powerful enemies. There were multiple threats on their lives. There were insinuations that they were involved in illegal drugs. There were successful efforts to thwart their current positions. There were actual killings of their loyal men, like Kap Ruben Arzaga of Villa Libertad, who was shot to death while investigating a report of trees being illegally cut down.

One of the para-enforcers in focus was Tata Balladaras, who recounted his shock as a young soldier when he was made to cut down trees in the Palawan forests supposedly in the name of "progress." Since then, he had pledged his life to protect this environment so that his grandchildren can still see and enjoy the lush rainforests he knew and loved. However, the constant danger he faced when he and his men was very discouraging.

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Karl Malakunas, an Australian journalist from Agence-France Presse, was the writer and director of this documentary. He did not flinch in naming names of the politicians who cancel the valiant efforts of these intrepid para-enforcers to the point of threatening their lives. Cinematographer Tom Bannigan captured the natural beauty of Palawan which made it famous, as well as the tough lives of the brave people who fight to keep it that way.

The passion of Malakunas started in 2011 when he was supposed to make an ecotourism feature, but his contact was gunned down. This led him to dig further and document the violence against environmental activists in this paradise island. As the ominous title promised, the escalation of tension within the film will disturb audiences with the palpable danger they vicariously experience while watching this eye-opening and infuriating documentary.

"Delikado" is co-produced by Karl Malakunas, together with Marty Syjuco and Michael Collins (the team behind the incisive 2011 exposé about the 1997 Chiong sisters murder "Give Up Tomorrow") and Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."