If a Filipino should choose a dark period in the more recent history of the Philippines, chances are that he/she would pick the Martial Law Era. Why not, when one does not have to be born during that time to be angered by the abuse of power, human rights violations and poverty-causing corruption of the Marcos Regime? The few lucky First Quarter Storm children and the generations before them would live to tell us their tales of horror, and contemporary Philippine History textbooks have already immortalized in their pages the notorious dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. The successful EDSA Revolution that ended this iron-fist rule and, ultimately, that restored national democracy gave way to a relatively more blissful government under Ninoy Aquino’s widow Corazon. However, watching Lino Brocka’s Orapronobis makes me want to think twice about using the term “blissful” because apparently, the Aquino administration bred rebel insurgency that had gone overshadowed by public concerns over expanded foreign debt as well as politically destabilizing coup de etat attempts. This rebel movement is represented in the film as a cult named Orapronobis under Kumander Kontra’s (Bembol Roco) leadership, which terrorizes the little-known town of Dolores by executing a priest and a rebel. Kumander Kontra’s group would go on and massacre suspected rebels among innocent citizens. These crimes would initially call the attention of recently-freed political prisoner-turned human rights advocate Jimmy Cordero (Philip Salvador) to a fact-finding investigation to Dolores with his brother-in-law, and would eventually lead them to demand action from the government. Nothing happens and the next thing Jimmy knows, his amazon ex-girlfriend Esper (Gina Alajar) gets kidnapped by the cult under the impression that she helps Kumander Kontra’s enemies, is raped and, with her son by Jimmy and with other abducted civilians from the barrio, gets killed. This largely unexplored portrayal of the helpless Aquino government ends with the suggestion that Jimmy, frustrated with the post-EDSA administration, picks up a gun and returns underground. I now understand why this film got banned from public exhibition in the Philippines during the time it was produced until only lately. It was critical of a government that seemed to have been unable to do something about the same problems that thrived during its predecessor: the crimes against the people. Because of the film’s powerful interpretation of this political crisis, it was not unlikely that the upset audience would be so moved as to take up arms against existing social injustices and conduct drastic civil actions that would threaten the government’s stability. I am not a very political person but like my classmates, I was depressed by the pitiful plight of the Filipinos even after the reestablishment of democracy in the country. Marcos might have been ousted from his tyranny but it was not an assurance that the violence committed against civilians did not continue in the replacing Aquino government. It was just clouded by more pressing economic and political problems, but most probably went on like a regular business where media cannot reach the ordinary folks, where rebel insurgencies victimize citizens from the countryside. As such, the people should not place full confidence on the government for fear that this government grows powerless over the very crimes that it should shield the people from or worse, turns brutally on them. This is not to say that the government should be dismantled altogether because it would possibly be more difficult and frustrating for us to live under an anarchy. I believe that the film wants to send the important message that people should always remain vigilant especially when politically turbulent times endanger the individual freedoms of the populace. After all, the true essence of democracy is the practical existence of the people power, the true measure of human liberation.
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