“Such harassment betrays how poorly state authorities treat independent media and artists, and how easily they think they can violate our right to communicate freely.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Progressive filmmakers were harassed by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) at the screening event of Sine Henerasyon at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani on Feb. 28.
In a Facebook post, JL Burgos, one of the filmmakers, said the QCPD bomb squad unit arrived at around 10 a.m. to “sweep” the venue as a so-called “VIP” will arrive. Organizers allowed them to conduct inspection of the venue. Two police armed with high-powered rifles, however, were left to keep an eye on the place.
At around 4:30 p.m., he related, more police came. This time, they asked if one of the films, titled “Mga Hugis ng Pula” (Shapes of Crimson), is about the New People’s Army.
Another police man wanted to go inside the venue. The organizers, however, told them that they need to pay for the entrance fee and to leave his firearms behind. The police man just left the venue.
Burgos said they took the seeming harassment in jest. But around 8 p.m., the police arrived again, looking for the organizers.
“I faced them again and asked them frankly if they were gathering intelligence. The police had no clear answer. They were defensive and left the venue. I told them that they were harassing us. I took photos of their vehicles’ plate number as they left,” Burgos said.
Three documentary films were shown in Sine Henerasyon: Ilang-Ilang Quijano’s “Daughters of Cordillera,” Burgos’ “Portraits of a Mosquito Press” and EJ Mijares’ controversial “Shapes of Crimson.”
Shapes of Crimson is a documentary on the life of Famas and Palanca awardee, scriptwriter Bonifacio Ilagan.
“We do not know why you need to keep an eye on us. We are no criminals. But we are armed with our cameras and, most especially, our principles,” said Burgos, who is also the son of press freedom fighter Joe Burgos.
The Pinoy Media Center, the organizer of the screening, in a statement, found irony that the three films were about activists who fought the Marcos Dictatorship, and the police conducted a “martial law-era” form of harassment.
“The obvious police harassment put a damper on an otherwise very successful and celebratory screening of our documentaries, which we have been working on for a long time with the support of German and French cultural institutions, as well as national arts bodies,” the statement read.
The alternative media group added that they are alarmed that “armed state authorities have the gall to question us about the content of our films.”
“As far as we know, freedom of expression exists or should exist. We must not tolerate any attempt to use the power of gun to intimidate any filmmaker or any artist who tries to produce works that accurately depict Philippine history and social realities,” said the PMC.
“Such harassment betrays how poorly state authorities treat independent media and artists, and how easily they think they can violate our right to communicate freely,” the PMC said.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said they are “alarmed and angered” over the “patently illegal and brazen harassment” by the police against the filmmakers.
“It is clear that the QCPD are in dire need of a refresher course on their oft-quoted, but often disregarded motto, ‘to serve and protect,’ which means not only our lives and properties but all the rights and freedoms our Constitution guarantees, including the right to free expression and freedom of the press,” the NUJP said.