MANILA—British filmmaker James Jones has challenged the Duterte administration to watch their documentary entitled "On the President's Orders," which was criticized by Malacañang as an "overdramatization" of the ongoing war on drugs in the Philippines.
The scathing documentary by Jones and French director Olivier Sarbil, who are both Emmy Award-winning filmmakers, tackled the handling of the Caloocan City police force of the war against illegal drugs as ordered by Duterte.
Jones said the Palace issued a statement without even seeing the documentary, which also told the story of a man who was killed by masked men on a motorcycle in broad daylight.
"I would urge people in the administration and Duterte supporters at home and abroad, some of whom have come and protested our screenings in London, to watch the film to engage in debate about it and to understand...the people who are dying do have families," Jones said.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the documentary, which is set to debut in some United States film theaters and air on PBS this October, "reeks of malice."
Jones made the statements about Malacañang in a taped message shown to a group of media invited to watch the full documentary in Quezon City.
Jones clarified that when they came to the Philippines in October 2017 to film the documentary, which took 9 months to finish, they did not have a particular agenda.
He said that upon the recommendation of a Filipino photo-journalist, they filmed then Caloocan City police chief Jemar Modequillo who is “charismatic and attention-seeking.”
“Our objective was to get to the truth and understand why these killings were happening and how they could be justified,” Jones said.
In a discussion after the Quezon City showing of the documentary, human rights advocates said that critics of the campaign must continue to push back for the sake of poor people, who comprise the majority of the fatalities in the war on drugs.
"The bottomline is the government has actually treated these people like animals, like insects," said Dr. Nymia Simbulan of Philippine Human Rights Information Center.
"Magkakaroon ng singilan eh, the day of reckoning will come," said Atty. Gian Arabejo of the Alternative Law Groups.
The screening of the documentary as well as the taped message of Jones in Quezon City was organized by Active Vista International Human Rights Film Festival.