“I must say that I have a fire-burning idealism until now. I still have hopes for our society that’s why I don’t see the plot of the movie as my kind of way in the future.” This statement is expected from me – someone young, someone with full of ideals, and someone who aims to protect the oppressed and the defenseless. I still want to do that. I have to. I need to. But as I have always said, I am also realistic. This system is so corrupted and it needs to be reformatted, nonetheless I alone cannot do that. I can be the change but if people are becoming more apathetic, if people cannot walk the talk, if people are hopeless, it would be a very hard task, even if I become a lawyer.
In the main, the story is a manifestation of how corrupt our society is. We may have a few who tend to go against the current, but those little waves are vulnerable against the big waves that they meet along the way. The movie is a classic example that the oppressed will always be the oppressed and the oppressors will always be the oppressors. Moreover, the gap between these parties becomes distant as the time goes by.
I believe, we all believe, that by entering the legal profession, we will help in the administration of justice, but the reality will slap us so hard when we really have a good taste of the cake called money. This is manifested by the character of Piolo Pascual – a young lawyer who had probably genuine craving for significant change but was eventually swallowed by the system. He did the dirty works. His deeds were foul. At the end, he died before he could even change and so the repression goes on.
Our semi-feudal, semi-colonial society
Many citizens of our country are not aware that we have a semi-feudal, semi-colonial society. We are blinded by the idea of democracy we thought we acquired after the People Power of 1986. We are actually in a system where feudalism is hidden behind the shadows of sharing and equitability and colonialism is hidden behind the shadows of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. Until now, we have landlords and tenants. Until now, there is still colonialism, though, there is no physical domination.
The features of semi-feudalism and semi-colonialism were clearly exemplified in the film. However, my reaction will focus on the semi-feudal aspect of it.
There are only few people who hold power in their hands while a lot are suffering. These few represent the landlords while there are countless tenants under their control. The former are maximizing the utility of these tenants for their own particular gain which will result to the preservation of wealth, fame and social status. Conversely, it will appear that the tenants will gain from it but, essentially, they will only become victims of these landlords. Take for example the utilization of the inmates in assassinations. The inmates thought that they were benefiting compared to other inmates by following the orders of their masters, when in fact, they were killed the moment they got out of prison. Eventually, those who are in power get all the benefits. And it does not stop there, because those powerful will pass what they have acquired, physically or emotionally, to their blood lines and thus will control the future lineage of the oppressed. The power here is concentrated that reinforces the wide gap among the rich and the poor.
I don’t really believe that being family-oriented is a one of the finest traits that we have as Filipinos. Yes, we should love and be loyal to our family members, but isn’t it too much to care for them while stepping on the rights of others? I have always believed in equality. We are born as brothers and sisters. I thank my parents for bringing me into this world, but it was really God who made me, so my loyalty should be in Him. I ought to love my fellow because we are one. Our families are just instruments of God.
In the film, the lawyer was torn between his family and justice. Yes, I will say it was between ‘justice’. And he chose, more often than not, the side of his family. Justice knows no name, no love, and no care. Justice is justice so it must be rendered to those who deserved it. The familial ties we have will only degrade justice. It may sound radical in the context of Philippine society, but let’s face it, it is happening; it is everywhere. If we are to become good lawyers, I think we should set aside allegiance to our family; instead, we should proffer our allegiance to justice.
Philippines is very popular for its patron-client relationship. It is not only limited to election and political positions; there is bureaucracy, and in the grassroots, there is the boss and there are subordinates. In the film, it was exemplified by the strong and existent connection of the military official and his cohorts, by the police officer and the inmates, by Tatang and Daniel. This relationship is an off shoot of feudalism, of the existence of the superior and the inferior.
However, this is not a bad feature per se. In this society, we cannot really avoid this culture because we have the concept of management and administration. There is hierarchy in every organization to promote order. What makes it ghastly is the use of this patron-client relationship to solicit utang na loob and eventually make people subservient to those who are in power. This sense of gratitude also props up injustice for the reason that it will force us to do things, even against our will, for the satisfaction of those who have helped us. The moral dilemma is always strong but if we want to transform, we should not be afraid of getting away from a rotten and decadent tradition.
In the end, I think, unless we change our perceptions about our society, we cannot really expect social justice. If we cannot embrace the ideals we have, we will lose to this corrupt system. I started this piece with all the ideals in the world but I have gone astray along the way. While attempting to end this, I am thinking and asking myself, “10 years from now, can I stick to my beliefs?” and this scares me because by even thinking of it, I am slowly letting my own ship sink into the horizon.#
*A reaction paper for my legal ethics class passed on March 8, 2014