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War and hope in the Philippines

INTERVIEW: Ny Tid met the Philippine artist Kiri Dalena during the international short film festival in Oberhausen.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

The new profile program for the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen 2019 in Germany offered an enjoyable return to films with political messages, an essential part of the festival's identity in previous years. Particular attention was paid to Philippine visual artist, filmmaker and human rights activist Kiri Dalena. Ny Tid interviewed the renowned artist.

- Have you considered moving from your country?

- My personal finances aren't so bad that I'm forced to go out in search of income, as millions of other Filipinos must. Nor am I in a situation where I have to live with serious threats and attacks on my life and reputation, as opposition politicians and profiled activists do. When I visit other countries and see well-functioning legal communities where all citizens have equal opportunities to create a good and meaningful life, I get sad because of the state of my own country. But I am also inspired, since I see that it is possible to live and do things in a different way. So while it is still beyond my imagination to see how we can reverse today's situation, where justice has become wrong and wrong has become right, I tell myself that there must be a reason why I was born where I was born and not some elsewhere.

Back washed and demonized

- Who in the Philippines is being persecuted and attacked?

- Human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and judges. People who prosecute and take legal action against the authorities, and more specifically, those who abuse their power, or even more specifically, against those who systematically and repeatedly commit abuse because they have power. People who object to the eradication of the democratic processes and institutions of our country. People who choose to support those who are laundered and demonized in our society, the most vulnerable and easiest groups can be exploited and eradicated.

From The Dark Depths

The war on drugs

- What can be done?

- When it comes to the "war on drugs", we must make sure to have a fact-based conversation and education campaign in the local communities, at the grassroots. People should not remain silent and turn their backs just because it does not directly concern themselves or their family. Those who accept the authorities' "war on drugs" narrative must receive additional information so that they realize that killings and executions will never solve the drug problem. I still do not believe that drugs and their dependence are the root cause of poverty and crime in local communities, but we need to look at why people are starting to abuse drugs, especially methamphetamine; we need to understand why the problem has arisen. Drug addicts should not be deprived of basic human rights, and drug abuse should be treated as a health problem, not criminalized. We artists should not disappear into our bubble when we consider this topic and possible solutions. We must work with academics, researchers, doctors, lawyers, civil society, and we must also look to other societies that have faced similar problems. We must look internationally for the best and most humane measures and alternative solutions, see if we can learn something, and then apply it in our own country.

Duterte does not offer change

- Why has President Duterte become so popular?

- As I see it, Duterte, who was previously mayor of Davao, sailed into national politics because he was in the right place at the right time. The difficult living conditions most people struggle with have never been dealt with or taken seriously by the authorities. Duterte launched himself as a different type from the previous presidents, all of whom came from powerful families and were landowners and oligarchs: he distanced himself from the ruling class and presented himself as a real alternative. He went to the polls to put an end to crime, and created a narrative that it was drug abuse that was the root of all evil and that had to be eradicated at all costs if we were to bring about a change in society – even if this meant kill millions along the way. I think the Filipinos were desperate for something and someone to believe in, and this someone became Duterte. But unfortunately, for those who have not yet realized it, he does not offer a path to actual change.

- What can the international community do?

- Duterte's government consistently and systematically rejects what should be inalienable and fundamental rights; they are in the process of developing a dictatorship. Today's authorities should be condemned by the authorities of other countries and international organizations that are concerned not only for the Philippines but for humanity as a whole. And when it comes to the "war on drugs", the government should be pressured to rely on evidence, research and humanitarian strategies in its approach to drug abuse and addiction problems. A "war on drugs" will never succeed.

When I visit other countries and see well-functioning legal communities, I get sad because of the situation in my own country.

Human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, religious leaders and community leaders are invaluable in the work of building our society, they are under strong pressure and must be defended. And not least, the families and children of those killed and imprisoned must be taken care of and protected. Several organizations, including denominations, have contributed in this area, but it is still not enough as the number of victims is overwhelming. I fear for our future, but see that we Filipinos – and the world community – now have an opportunity to regroup and jointly correct injustice.

- What does hope mean to you?

- Hope is the choice to remain unshakable in our defense of what our fathers, mothers and ancestors fought for so that we would have a better future. It is knowing what it means to be human and compassionate, even if you are part of a vulnerable minority.

Also read: Sharp look at the Philippines

dieter@gmail.com
Wieczorek is a critic living in Paris.

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