For the first time in the Philippines audiences will be able to watch a cinematic treat from Panama. There have been quite a number of international fests here even the WORLD PREMIERES film festival (instigated by former FDCP Chair Briccio Santos), which featured titles from as far as Russia, Turkey, Mongolia and so on. Panama, however, is one of those countries that have yet to debut a movie for Filipinos.
Through the very first CINE LATINO Film Festival, Pinoy cineastes will be able to watch movies from this region of the world for free from December 6 to 10, 2017 at the Shang Cineplex, Shang Rila Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City. Shang Cineplex has established itself as the home of many international fests having just concluded the Argentinian Film Fest and Danish Fest. There is also the upcoming Hungarian film fest from December 1-2, 2017.
CINE LATINO will have a mix of drama, comedy, romance and many more. The festival is set to show films from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela that are truly unforgettable.
In a recent presscon Chilean Amb Jose Miguel Capdevila made note of the reasons why storytellers from Latin America have captivated the world, “Latin America has been quite prolific, first with literature. If we remember the 70s, the so-called Latin American boom. We have authors such as Jose Donoso, Pablo Neruda and so on. There was a very important point of culture that came from Latin America and was very successful. Nowadays from 90s onwards cinema kind of took the post. Our countries started producing wonderful films. And the quality of films were of such level that if you take a look at the international festivals all over the world you’ll see that the one of the top three are Latin American films proposed for awards. That speaks for itself in terms of the quality of films we are producing.”
Chilean Amb. Jose Miguel Capdevila also emphasized the importance of cinema in bridging cultures, “I would say in the past 10 years we have advanced very much. The concrete and living proof is that our films have been awarded in the most important festivals all over the world. Needless to say that was one of the ideas in organizing this festival. Because we were fully aware and conscious we would like to share with you something very good about Latin America such as cinema. Cinema as literature cinema is a way of language and expression. Essentially what is expressed is ourselves, the way we are, the way we feel. Once you watch these films and books you get an impression of who we are. The more we know each other the better the ties will be. In that token this festival plays an important role in making us closer, the Philippines and Latin American countries. That is the worthwhile effect of this common activity.”
Argentinian ambassador Roberto Bosch proposed the CINE LATINO Film fest to the other Latin American countries who have embassies here namely: Brazil– Amb Rodrigo do Amaral Souza, Chile – Amb Jose Miguel Capdevila, Colombia – Amb Victor Hugo Echeverri, Mexico – Amb Gerardo Lozano Arredondo, Panama – Amb Rolando Anibal Guevara Alvarado and Venezuela – Capaya Rodriguez Gonzalez. The Spanish language is a point of emphasis in the shared history of the region and the Philippines.
Panamanian Ambassador Rolando Anibal Guevara Alvarado talked about how their government has started to assist their filmmakers, “Panama has a film industry but is in the initial stages. Now we have more opportunities for filmmakers, actors in the worldwide audience. For us it’s significant to bring a movie here. The title is CHANCE, which is a hilarious comedy. It’s basically about 2 housekeepers who work for an aristocratic family. For a certain time they were mistreated in one trip of the family to Florida, the yayas have a plan of their own. They take care of the mansion in their absence. In doing so they discover intimate secrets of the family. The message is all dirty clothes have to be washed in house. It’s going to be a hilarious comedy for Filipinos.”
OFWs, Ship Registry
Panama has strong economic ties with the Philippines, “You have Filipinos around the world. We have also in Panama Filipinos working as caregivers, nurses. Last year we deployed a lot of Filipinos, 1,000 experts who worked on mining because Panama is starting the mining process.”
Ship registry according to Alvarado is still the focus, “But the main reason we have an embassy here is because of shipping. Panama is the number one ship registry (for the Panamanian flag) and Filipinos are the largest and best seafarers in the world. That’s our connection. That’s basically the main purpose. We had our national Day just two weeks ago. We were celebrating the hundred years of the ship registry. We are very well known for that. We have a whole state policy behind that. Just to give you an idea of how close our ties are, we receive a total of 150 applications per day for ship registry. We have a very good synergy between governments in that particular area. We have signed Memorandum of agreements on high level official visits.”
Connected to the ship registry is another film they would like to screen by next year, “We’re also trying to bring Historias De Canal HISTORY OF THE PANAMA CANAL this is a feature film we’re going to screen in the near future most probably in the first quarter of 2018. I would also like to invite the shipping community. We are a country of mariners by nature.”
Boxing legend Roberto Duran actually makes a cameo appearance in this current film EL CHANCE screened in CINE LATINO Dec 8- 6pm and Dec 10- 1pm (Shang Cineplex). Alvarado revealed a new role for the world renowned ‘Hands Of Stone’, “Roberto Duran is appointed now as Special Envoy for Sports. He’s an icon of Panama has given a lot of glory for our country. He was recently inducted in the Boxing Hall of Fame. He’s now doing a nice job of promoting sports to young people. By the way we are very fond of Manny Pacquiao. There are quite a few people who follow the fights of Manny Pacquiao.”
History with Spain and U.S.
Ambassador Alvarado also enumerated the historical similarities between the Philippines and his country, “In the case of Panama and several countries in Latin America we came from hundreds of years of Spanish rule. Panama has a twin connection with the Philippines. Apart from being a Spanish colony we also have the influence of the U.S. Americans. You have the military bases as well as us. They controlled us for 40 years until the canal was turned over to Panama. So the U.S. has influenced us, making a big impact on the economy, lifestyle. So we have that special thing. We are very Catholic basically we are in the same equator, just on the opposite side of the world. We have the same weather, fruits and products. And we have a lot of connections between our two countries.”
CINE LATINO schedule
|Time||December 6 • Wed||Running Time|
|1:00 – 2:35||Patas arriba (Venezuela)||1.35|
|3:30 – 4:45||Sofía y el terco (COLOMBIA)||1.15|
|7:30 – 9:35||El hijo de la Novia SON OF THE BRIDE (Argentina)
opening night film
|December 7 • Thu|
|1:00 – 2:55||Dois filhos de Francisco (Brasil)||1.55|
|3:30 – 4:50||Shortfilms (México)||1.20|
|5:30 – 7:10||Hermano (Venezuela)||1.40|
|8:00 – 10:10||Cidade de Deus (Brasil)||2.10|
|December 8 • Fri|
|1:00 – 2:50||El comienzo del tiempo (MEXICO)||1.50|
|3:30 – 5:20||Subterra (CHILE)||1.50|
|6:00 – 7:30||El chance (PANAMÁ)||1.30|
|8:00 – 10:05||El hijo de la novia SON OF THE BRIDE (ARGENTINA)||2.05|
|December 9 • Sat|
|1:00 – 2:30||Esperando la carroza (Argentina)||1.30|
|3:00 – 4:55||Dois filhos de Francisco (BRASIL)||1.55|
|5:30 – 7:20||El comienzo del tiempo (MEXICO)||1.50|
|8:00 – 9:15||Sofía y el terco (COLOMBIA)||1.15|
|December 10 • Sun|
|1:00 – 2:30||El chance (PANAMÁ)||1.30|
|3:00 – 5:10||Cidade de Deus (Brasil)||2.10|
|6:00 – 7:35||Patas arriba (Venezuela)||1.35|
|8:00 – 9:50||Subterra (CHILE)||1.50|
Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
John Proctor (JV Ibesate): Anong kasalanan? Bakit yan si Parris? Bakit yan si Abigail di niyo pag hinalaan ha? Porke’t sila nagsampa ng kaso sila banal? Alam ko na nangyayari sa bayan na ito. Venganza! Pag hihigante! Hindi naman tayo ganito tayo dati ha? Pero ngayon pag hihigante na! Venganza nga ito. At hindi ko hahayaan maging biktima ng venganza ang asawa ko! Elizabeth Proctor (Doray Dayao): John sasama na lang ako sa ka nila. Proctor: Hinde! Ezekiel Cheever (Erick Sindol): John hindi pwedeng hindi mo sakin siya ibigay. Trabaho lang ito. Sumusuonod lamang ako sa utos. Proctor: Ano? Ikaw wala kang gagawin? Rev John Hale (Joshua Tayco): Paniwalaan natin ang hustisya ng korte! Proctor: Hoy! Ponsyo Pilato! Kahit ang Diyos di papayag sa pag huhugas kamay mo!
There was a palpable fear and discomfort inside the Tanghalang Huseng Batute, (Studio Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines during the performance of ANG PAG-UUSIG (A translation of Arthur Miller’s THE CRUCIBLE) by Tanghalang Pilipino. The show is a must watch for all Filipinos and runs until October 22, 2017.
Although it was set in the 1690s, it was like looking into the lives and homes of modern day Filipinos who have been suspected as drug pushers or those who lost loved ones in Tokhang or the War On Drugs. The official number of lives lost is at least 3,400 (as of June 2017) but anyone who watches the news each day knows the real number is much higher. Pres. Duterte said recently, “Pumatay tayo (Let’s kill) another 32 everyday, maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” From Philstar.com: 20 killed in Manila overnight after bloody Bulacan raid
The definition of crucible is a severe test, which refers to the trials in Salem and the era which put to death innocent people mostly women wrongly accused of witchcraft. Filipino, like most Asian languages, is high context, with one word having several meanings. Pag-uusig is not a direct translation of crucible, according to google translate its prosecution. In an interview with director Dennis Marasigan (a screenwriter himself) he preferred the translation as persecution, which fits the story even better. It was Marasigan’s idea to use Pag-Uusig as the title, not taking anything away from the masterful translation of Jerry Respeto, whose work is quoted above.
Storied playwright Arthur Miller best explains his own work through COLLECTED ESSAYS published by Penguin books in 2016. Portions of the essay were quoted in the program of PAG-UUSIG along with valuable insights from the creative team. The official program (priced at P150) is an essential resource and companion to appreciate the play. More importantly it grants us a better understanding of what’s happening in our country today.
Miller writes about THE CRUCIBLE, “Is it a political play? It is I think, but in a particular sense. It is very often done in Latin America just before a dictatorship is about to take over—as a warning and just after one has been overthrown, as a reminder…Its underlying reference is political paranoia whichever side makes use of that source of power.”
Two weeks into the run of PAG-UUSIG (October 13) President Duterte threatened his ‘enemies’ by having them all arrested and establishing a revolutionary government, “Sige mag-demonstrate kayo, bring it to a point na talagang tatagilid ang gobyerno. Alam ng military isa sa mga active na mag-destabilize is the communist. Do you think police and military will sympathize with you? I was elected by the people. If I sense the country is about to go overboard, I will declare a revolutionary government. Hindi ko kayo tinatakot pero hulihin ko kayong lahat, and I will declare a full-scale war against the NPA (New People’s Army),”. From ABS CBN News: Duterte Threatens to Set Up Revolutionary Government.
In the same article he identifies plotters believing that the Central Intelligence Agency is in a conspiracy with the Communist Party of the Philippines / New People’s Army to overthrow his regime. This is ignoring the fact that the CPP/NPA has an anti-U.S. Imperialism dogma throughout its more than 50 year existence.
Duterte also believes that reputable news website Rappler.com is controlled by the CIA without offering any basis. Founder Maria Ressa is a well-respected media figure having worked as CNN’s lead investigative journalist in Asia for two and a half decades and was head of ABS CBN News and Current Affairs. She has won an Overseas Press Club Award for Best Documentary and countless others.
The Paranoid Becomes A Leader
Milller continues, “Paranoia has a power and it rises not basically from ravings about plots and hidden conspiracies but from the grain of recognizable fact around which the fantasies are woven. The paranoid feels endangered by some person or group mysteriously controlling his actions despite his will. His violence therefore is always defensive, trained against oppressor who means to kill him before he can kill them.” For Filipinos this helps explain the oft-repeated excuse in the loss of life in police operations. The term is nanlaban, which means fought back therefore a justification for the police to use force thereby killing the suspect.
Miller also offers an explanation how the paranoid becomes a leader, “His job therefore is to unmask and disarm, to find the seemingly innocent traces of the pervading malevolence and he comes to recognize hostility even in the way a person holds his hands or turns his head. His only hope is power, power to neutralize the dangers around him. Naturally since those dangers can be anywhere his power must also be total in order to work. And of course it is true that to one degree or another we are, in fact hostile to each other, and when we are accused of holding that hostility, we do indeed hate the accusation and the accuser. So that the paranoid creates the reality which proves him right. And this is why the paranoid, who in normal times might merely end in an institution can rise to the leadership of a society which is really insecure and at a loss of spiritual debility.”
McCarthyism and Impeachments
Miller wrote THE CRUCIBLE in 1953, the heyday of McCarthyism. It was an era that was also marked by paranoia and persecution of ‘accused’ communists. He described the parallelisms between the two, “Three hundred years apart both prosecutions were alleging membership in a secret disloyal group. Should the accused confess his honesty could be proved only the same way – by naming former confederates nothing less. Thus the informer became the very proof of the plot and the investigation’s necessity. Finally, in both eras, since the enemy was first and foremost an idea, the normal evidentiary proof of disloyal actions was either deemphasized, left in limbo or not required at all. And indeed actions finally became completely irrelevant. In the end the charge itself, suspicion itself all but became the evidence of disloyalty”
Days before President Duterte made his threat of arresting his ‘enemies’ via a revolutionary government, Commission on Elections Chairman Andy Bautista was impeached in congress October 11. This is only the latest among other impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. Both women are outspoken critics of Duterte’s War On Drugs and have impeccable reputations in the judiciary.
While there have been impeachment trials from previous administrations, only under Duterte has there been impeachment complaints against 3 separate officials. The complaints all come within his first year and a half in office. One of them against the Ombudsman, which ironically is defined as “charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights. The ombudsman is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but with a significant degree of independence.”
Former COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes described Bautista’s impeachment, “(It’s) a total farce. I am fully aware that the process of impeachment is both political and legal. It is totally, absolutely and purely political because all legal aspects were brushed aside.’ Citing one reason, he said the House committee on justice had determined that the complaint itself was accompanied by a “deficient, defective, flawed and infirmed verification.” From philstar.com: Comelec Chief’s Impeachment a Farce Says Predecessor
The article continues, “Some congressmen who attended the caucus and who did not want to be named told journalists that there was a “marching order from the Palace” to impeach Bautista. Duterte denied this on Friday, saying he does not meddle with his allies in Congress, some of whom are also claiming that he has given them the go-signal to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.”
Miller’s words ring ever true, ‘Indeed actions finally became completely irrelevant. In the end the charge itself, suspicion itself all but became the evidence of disloyalty.’
Jude Thaddeus Bautista
On the ceiling of K’s (Ryan Gosling) apartment a small crane comes alive at the end of it a ray of blue light. From it a 3D projection of a woman walks in dressed as 1950s white homemaker clothes complete with apron. She puts projection of a hot home made meal on top of K’s microwave dinner. As she takes a step forward she changes her clothes to a black sweater. Her hair also changes to a more contemporary look. Her image flickers changes hair and clothes a few more times.
Joi (Ana de Armas): “Bon Appetit! I missed you baby Sweet.” K takes a bite of the microwave dinner he set down himself, “Honey its beautiful.” Her voice is calming, warm yet seductive at the same time, “Just put your feet up, relax…. It was a day.” K: “It was a day.” Joi: “Would you read to me? It will make you feel better.” K: “You hate that book.” Joi: “I don’t want to read either. Let’s dance.” K: “Do you wanna dance or do you wanna open your present?” Joi: “What present?” K: “This one.” Joi: “What’s the occasion?” K: “Let’s just say it’s our anniversary.”
He unwraps it. Her eyes grow wider. Joi: “Is it?” K: “No, but let’s just say that it is. Ok? Happy Anniversary.” He pulls out what appears to be a black stick that has a switch in the end. It has a similar blue light but more subtle. She gasps, “An emanator!” She laughs crying tears of joy, “Thank you!” K smiles, “Honey you can go anywhere in the world now. Where you wana go first?”
They go up to the roof of their apartment building. She watches the rain go down like a child. Then she takes a step underneath it cupping the drops in her hand and putting them to her face. She cries tears of joy again and looks at K. Takes a step forward to him in the rain, whispers, “I’m so happy when I’m with you.”
K: “You don’t have to say that.” He leans in to kiss her. Just then her projection freezes. A small beep comes in. K is exasperated. A ringtone follows then his boss’ voice. Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright): “The dig has come through. We have a new lead. Get down here.”
BLADE RUNNER 2049 by Denis Villeneuve is a lot more than just a look into the very near future. Just like the first installment it tackles the eternal question: what makes us human? This time it manages to go deeper; it doesn’t just deal with human memory but attempts to define it. There’s a more expansive universe to conquer.
The original BLADE RUNNER with Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard directed by Ridley Scott captured the world’s imagination of a dark high tech future with overpopulation, poverty and of course crime. It became a cult classic receiving commercial and critical success.
I was too young to watch in the cinemas when it first came out in 1982 and saw the movie via Betamax some years later. All I remembered was Harrison Ford getting his ass kicked by Rutger Hauer and the unforgettable face of Sean Young. Everywhere you looked in a U.S. city were countless Asians. In my college years in DLSU Dr. Mike Rapatan showed it to us. He made us study the lighting and cinematography, the look it achieved and compared it with film noir movies from the 40s. So there was an enormous excitement with the release of 2049.
Deckard was a cop (called Blade Runners) that specialized in dealing with rogue Replicants. Here in 2049, Ryan Gosling is also a Blade Runner, the difference is that Deckard was human while Gosling’s character is a replicant himself. He’s called ‘K’ because it’s the beginning letter of his serial number/code. Since they are not ‘human’ replicants are not given the privilege of having a name.
Genetically Modified Humans
When the first movie came out the concept of genetic engineering was not yet widely known or appreciated. This time, the sequel comes out with an audience more familiar with the concept. Nowadays we’re all aware of genetically modified, vegetables, fruit, even chicken, pigs. They all fall under the acronym GMO (genetically modified organisms). The growing of human tissue is possible nowadays apart from heart and kidney transplants being the norm. So manufactured humans whose genes are manipulated for specific purposes is something that we can grasp.
Usually they’re designed to be physically stronger, sometimes with better reading and comprehension skills. There’s a wide array of uses from making them soldiers, cops like K to designing them for sexual pleasure- artificial prostitutes. Something more explored here in the current version: ‘Ro Girls’- Mariette (Mackenzie Davis), Doxie #2 (Krista Kosonen) and Doxie #3 (Elarica Johnson). They look like Victoria Secret models willing to fulfill your every sexual fantasy.
Ro Girls are different from Joi a 3D projection who satisfies a more romantic and emotional need for companionship. Mariette has a wider role in the story beyond that of a Ro Girl. She is played by Mackenzie Davis who has gained fame from the hit TV show HALT AND CATCH FIRE. Mackenzie has recently appeared as the title role in IZZY GETS THE FUCK ACROSS TOWN at the L.A. Film Festival and will be in TULLY with Charlize Theron to be released in 2018.
Life spans can also be extended or shortened. That’s how space colonization or the outer worlds were conquered because of the replicants. They were able to manufacture humans more suitable for travel through space. The original BLADE RUNNER was set in 2019. The period between them were covered in a series of short films available on YouTube. After the fall of the Tyrell Corporation, the proposal to create and use replicants again became acceptable.
Blade Runner 2036 Nexus Dawn Short by Luke Scott
Because of the success of colonies in space through their use, another corporation has risen: Wallace Corp, led by Niander Wallace. He is blind but extremely ruthless. Played by Jared Leto, he gives his role a single-minded obsession in creating more replicants for the conquest of space. Niander is a character that should have been explored more. That’s something they can rectify in another sequel or third installment.
Although he is blind, there’s almost a consistent glint in his eyes. This is one of the indicators of being a replicant from Ridley Scott. SO I have a personal theory that its possible he may be a replicant pretending to be human and blind. Again this may be explored or disproved through a sequel.
Leto has the villain monopoly since his performance in SUICIDE SQUAD where he played the Joker. In an interview with Conan O’Brien he shared that he has been offered the role of serial killer Charles Manson and cult leader David Koresh. Leto was also seen on a zipline during a THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS concert in Rio, Brazil. He also confessed that co-star Harrison Ford is his hero.
My brother Noel called him “quite possibly the defining actor of our generation. Who can say they were in three sci-fi fantasy mega franchises? STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES and BLADE RUNNER?” Of course there are actors like Hugo Weaving who was in even more sci-fi fantasy franchises MATRIX, LORD OF THE RINGS, TRANSFORMERS. Then there’s Andy Serkis who is in the newer STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS, LAST JEDI, EPISODE IX, PLANET OF THE APES, LORD OF THE RINGS.
But neither Weaving nor Serkis were in the lead role the way Harrison Ford carried countless films. This includes memorable action flicks like AIR FORCE ONE, CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER and THE FUGITIVE, which were also huge blockbusters. So Ford is a strong candidate as one of the defining actors of our generation if only for the sheer popularity of the movies.
He excels in portraying shady characters who find it in themselves to do the right thing just like smuggler Han Solo. He is great at showing the inner conflict in a character. Although Indiana Jones is an archaeologist he goes into ancient structures to acquire these treasures not from his country or culture. As Deckard he’s a cop but falls in love with a replicant.
For most fans of the original BLADE RUNNER he’s the reason why they are watching 2049. Edward James Olmos is another holdover reprising Gaff, Deckard’s superior officer into origami. Olmos became popular in a similar role in the TV show MIAMI VICE.
He’s not as good-looking as Ryan Gosling or has the muscularity of Schwarzenegger or Stallone that’s why he’s more relatable. But there’s courage and complexity in his characters. He’s also proven himself in dramas and comedies as well: SABRINA, ANCHORMAN 2, MORNING GLORY. Fans would also be glad to know he has signed on to do another Indiana Jones film to be released in 2020.
With all the Asians running around in BLADE RUNNER you’d think the flying cars would either be Japanese or Korean made. But no, they’re by PEUGEOT, their logo appeared in one of the screens in K’s car. PEUGEOT is a French brand in support of a Canadian (but French speaking) director Denis Villeneuve.
PEUGEOT isn’t the only European touch as the more important roles were also given to rising stars Sylvia Hoeks and Ana De Armas. Hoeks has already won accolades in her home country of Netherlands. In the role of Luv with dark hair she channeled the hot geekiness of NCIS’ Pauley Perrette with ferocity of UNDERWORLD’s Kate Beckinsale.
Ana De Armas on the other hand was born in Cuba but also had breakthrough TV roles in Spain before she moved to Los Angeles. Ana plays Joi, the holographic girlfriend of K. The role accentuates Ryan Gosling’s strength of being a romantic lead. Combined with De Armas’ captivating eyes, angelic face, warmth, they make their relationship as real as the warm-blooded human variety.
This is the central theme that BLADE RUNNER director Ridley Scott, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth successfully put to screen with their breathtaking visuals. And Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins expanded and improved on in BLADE RUNNER 2049.
It is the relationship between Joi and K that poses a lot more questions. It begins with the eternal question of what makes us human and evolved from there. IF we are able to create sentient beings such as replicants or artificial intelligence, do they not have feelings? And if they can be self-aware the way we are as people why should they be discriminated upon? Perhaps just thinking of expanding our definition of humanity to artificial intelligence has benefits. Maybe, just maybe then there’s hope in eliminating discrimination like racism, sexism, homophobia and many more to our own species in our own time.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) was excited to get out of the Kingsman tailoring shop and have a quiet dinner with his young, loving girlfriend. Two steps from the Kingsman vehicle disguised as a black London cab, a familiar face confronts him. Charlie (Edward Holcroft) holds a gun to his neck and forces him into the car. Eggsy appears to give in, just as the car door opens he flips Charlie into the backseat and tries to electrocute him with a hidden Taser. Charlie responds, “That’s not going to work on me anymore.” Charlie’s right sleeve burns and reveals a robot arm and punches Eggsy who gets out of the way. Eggsy screams at the driver to “Just drive!” Just then Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ starts blaring out the speakers as they try to kill each other, the car runs a hundred miles per hour through London’s busy streets.
As they struggle in the back seat, Eggsy sees another car speeding beside them. The back door swings open as Eggsy hangs on. Before an oncoming car hits the door, Eggsy leaps out of the way and he lands on the door skimming on the street like a spinning surfboard. The attacker’s car following them tries to run over him. Just before he gets run over, he grabs the trunk handle, opens it and gets in. He hits Charlie through the cushion and starts the fight all over again.
Kingsman The Golden Circle has it all: cars being driven underwater, ordinary looking eyeglasses that allow video conferencing, robot dogs that tear people apart to electric lassos and bullet proof umbrellas, hands down the best action movie of the year. The first film established it as James Bond to the nth power with a little bit of Austin Powers mixed in. Golden Circle tops all that and much more.
Combining high tech action and dry British comedy had the expected result: a hit earning $192.2million worldwide after the first week of opening. In the U.S. it has already out grossed the first film. But what was even more remarkable is how it dealt with something that was perfectly relevant to Filipinos. The message seems targeted or specifically tailor made for the Philippine situation.
Nowhere in the film does it even mention the phrase or acronym EJK or extra judicial killings because it goes way further than that. The film breaks the fallacy of two very clear generalizations that have been the norm in our country: 1. All drug users are criminals 2. All criminals deserve to die.
Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons were the two comic book creators originally called The Secret Service. But both Writer/ Director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman should be praised and congratulated for making the story and dialogue for The Golden Circle beyond an action blockbuster. They injected something pertinent most especially with the current situation in our country.
Before anyone can say spoiler alert, in this section of dialogue no character is revealed to have died nor the result of their plans. It does reveal the mindset and intentions of the U.S. President convincingly played by Bruce Greenwood. The scene is after nemesis and Drug Lord of the World Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) has poisoned millions of people in America and the world with an additive in her drugs that ensures a painful death. She also offers an antidote if the President will end his War on Drugs and legitimize her business.
President (Bruce Greenwood): What I’m proposing is we appear to agree to her demands to prevent global panic. And then let the junky scum go down in flames! Hehehe Yeah! Let this Poppy cancer go down with them. No drug users, no drug trade! Win-win situation here. Chief of Staff Fox (Emily Watson): But sir we’re not talking about a handful of hostages here. We could be looking at the deaths of hundreds of millions worldwide. President: Hundreds of millions of criminals a burden to society! Am I right McCoy? General McCoy (Mark Arnold): Absolutely sir.
Chief of Staff Fox: What about people who were just experimenting or self-medicating? Functioning professionals? Kids? President: Don’t give me that crap Fox! The fact is this presidency has just won the war on drugs! General McCoy: Congratulations sir! President: Thank you! And that deserves a toast! Chief of Staff Fox: This is totally unethical sir. President: Fox shut up! McCoy declare martial law we need to maintain control. Commandeer stadiums, schools, civic centers order a press black out. Put the military on standby…
Champ (Jeff Bridges): Whether they committed a crime those people are human beings. Great God, right now Tequila is in deep freeze because of this. Whiskey (Pedro Pascal): We can’t make it personal sir. Champ: Personal? Agent we can’t stand by and let folks like him die. These people, we’re they’re only hope…
Although the President was not the direct cause of the ‘deaths’ of drug users, it is crystal clear that he is more than happy to let them die, even when he had the chance to prevent it. According to the morality, logic and common sense of the film because of this he was still criminally liable. It’s the universal consensus in laws of man – Constitutions across the world, laws of God – in different religions from thousands of years is the sacredness of human life.
If this is common sense and is a universal consensus how is it in our country that all drug addicts are considered criminals? And how is it that all criminals therefore are deserving of summary executions? How is any of that acceptable? How was it made as a viable solution to our country’s ills?
If the U.S. President in this film can be held accountable for letting people die what more if a President is the actual cause of these people’s deaths? It may not be in the millions but it’s already in the thousands here in the Philippines. Then that President is without a doubt criminally liable.
The War On Drugs is not the only political statement of the film. There are many but one of the most traditional is the use of the U.S. flag. The symbolism of inserting it in cinema is even older than Hollywood. In my Documentary Film class (many, many years ago in DLSU) was taught by Dr Doy Delmundo. He is one of the esteemed screenwriters and filmmakers in the Philippines. He showed us one of the earliest films ever produced here during the Fil-Am War of 1898.
U.S. soldiers were marching, carrying Old Glory. He talked about the positioning, front row and center. As it got closer to the camera the stars and stripes filled almost the top half of the frame. That simple composition impresses upon the viewer the dominance of America or as an emerging superpower from a silent-era documentary film.
More than a hundred years later, the theme and technique still live on albeit with more special effects. In one scene from KINGSMAN the good guys pull a ripcord releasing a parachute. Emblazoned on the whole fabric the unmistakable Stars and Stripes. The U.S. flag almost explodes on to the whole silver screen as air hits the chute expanding it. The message here is slightly changed, with America being the world’s savior.
Think and Ask Questions
Whether it’s the War on Drugs or American role in the geopolitical landscape, no one has to subscribe to any and all of the ‘political statements’ or ‘propaganda’ intentionally or unintentionally made in KINGSMAN THE GOLDEN CIRCLE. What it should do to us as viewers is make us think and ask questions. Why do we believe the things we do? What is my stand on this or that issue and why? And if a movie is able to make me think this way and ask questions while at the same time entertain using incredible action scenes with Prince and Elton John blaring in the background, then so much the better.
Guardians 1 Ending
GUARDIANS Awesome Mixtape
There’s been a recent trend in blockbusters of using music from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Yes it has been done countless times before. But the recent success of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (the first one) has even more action and sci-fi flicks turning to the older hits that millennials are completely ignorant of. GUARDIANS was nominated for a Grammy, AMA & Billboard for their soundtrack while winning Best Music Supervision for Films Budgeted Over 25 Million Dollars (Dave Jordan) from Guild of Music Supervisors Awards and HMMA Best Soundtrack Album.
GUARDIANS last scene even included an old tape deck, on a space ship for that matter playing AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrel, before that scene MOONAGE DAYDREAM from David Bowie and even the Jackson’s ABC during the credits. STAR TREK BEYOND followed with Beastie Boys SABOTAGE for its climactic scene.
Crazy Elton John
KINGSMAN THE GOLDEN CIRCLE took it a step further when they actually cast one of the biggest songwriters from 70s and onward: Sir Elton John as himself. His scenes are the craziest you’ll ever see him. He plays to nearly all of his past real life tabloid exploits and emotional meltdowns dropping f-bomb after f-bomb. His fans and most people won’t be surprised at his ease in comedy. What is a revelation is his adeptness in the fight sequences. Youth of today will get a great intro to his work: DANIEL, SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT FOR FIGHTING and Trump’s favorite ROCKET MAN.
He wasn’t the only 70s icon honored too. Mark Strong who plays the gadget man Merlin had a very touching rendition of TAKE ME HOME COUNTRY ROADS by John Denver.
Official KGC trailer
Kingsman The Secret Service represented everything that’s quintessentially British from dapper suits to scotch whisky. The Golden Circle adds their American cousins in Jeff Bridges (Champ), Channing Tatum (Tequila) and Halle Berry (Ginger Ale).
Pedro Pascal is unrecognizable as cowboy/agent Whiskey. Fans know him as the Mediterranean, Middle Ages Prince Oberyn in an unknown TV series called Game of Thrones. Here he has an electric lasso. Pascal was able to transform himself looking and sounding like a young Burt Reynolds with a southern accent. Pascal was born in Chile but grew up in Orange County, California and San Antonio, Texas.
The Golden Circle may seem like pure escapism with international locations, huge stars, super visual effects and awesome soundtrack but it also has some food for thought us Pinoys are in dire need of.
As Harry Hart (Colin Firth) imparted to Whiskey: “Manners maketh man.”
My Warmth, Beloved,
Joli garçon, je dis oui (Pretty boy, I say yes) Bras de béton, je dis oui (Arms of concrete, I say yes) Coeur de bonbon, je dis oui (Heart of candy, I say yes) Seul vit l’amour ou vit l’envie… (Love only lives where there is desire…) Oui mon amour (Yes, my love) Cueillons les fruits (Let’s gather the fruits) Sans perdre un jour (Without losing a day) ni même une nuit! Mon cheri…(or another night My darling…) Joie du retour, (The joy of returning) tu chasses mes ennuis (You chase away my unhappiness) Tu peins de ta main (You paint with your hand) Les couleurs de ma vie…(The colors of my life) These are lyrics from the song Joli Garçon (Pretty Boy) sung in the French film SOUVENIR by the eternal and peerless Isabelle Huppert.
SOUVENIR is part of the 20th Edition of the Cine Europa film fest and is free on a first come first served basis. The fest runs from September 16-26, 2017 at Shang Cineplex, Shang Rila Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong, Philippines.
Now on its 20th year, the film festival has become stronger and bolder as it brings to the Philippines 24 films from 16 EU countries including from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and Norway.
SOUVENIR is truly European as it has a Belgian Writer director in Bavo Defurne leading a French Production. The story revolves around Liliane Cheveny played by Isabelle Huppert who was a former French representative to a wildly popular European song contest (with stage name Laura) but did not gain the superstardom of ABBA. After a failed marriage with her music mogul husband, she lives humdrum life working in a paté factory. To non-French viewers such as myself, they may initially mistake the paté as fruitcake or enormous bread. The size is around a generous loaf of bread even my friends who’ve lived in France had the same mistaken impression.
Glamorous Isabelle Huppert
She falls for a young 22-year-old boxer in Jean Leloup played by Kévin Azaïs. Although there is a considerable age gap between them, one can easily see how Jean falls for Liliane. She may not be a buxom blonde, but her red hair still holds its fire. Isabelle Huppert makes Liliane’s frailty lovable even sexy. And when she sings that’s when she pulls you in. The vocals aren’t necessarily operatic or Celine Dion-like. But the passion is certainly there. There’s both romance and insecurity in it that’s very relatable even charming that makes a song well…a hit.
The cinematography of Philippe Guilbert and Virginie Saint-Martin brought out the glam in Isabelle Huppert, almost a throwback to old Hollywood. Huppert certainly has the face and body for it; this film only enhances that iconic beauty of a star.
There is this misty, dream-like look in selected shots from the macro photography of bubbles in the champagne glass to the motorcycle scenes of Liliane and Jean. Liliane’s face was happy with an almost orange glow of sunset in the background that was used in the 60s or photographs in the 70s. The cinematography was dreamy but not too much that it takes away from the realism of the story.
Filipino fans were introduced to Huppert in Brillante Medoza’s CAPTIVE (2012), which also had its Philippine premiere in Shang Cineplex. It was attended by Amb Gilles Garachon, Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Loren Legarda, Ces Drilon, cast member Angel Aquino and National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose.
CAPTIVE was very gritty in terms of look as it followed the story of Thérèse Bourgoine, a French social worker kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group. As their captors were hauling them through the jungles, it wasn’t an opportunity to appreciate the glamorous side of Huppert unlike here in SOUVENIR.
Kevin has the classic Gaelic features of piercing blue eyes and almost platinum blonde hair. He has ripped abdominals enough to be convincing as a lightweight boxer Jean. But his physique is not too rough that he overpowers Huppert. He maintains his boyish charms that catch her eye.
Much needed comic relief is from Jan Hammenecker who plays Jean’s father Eddy Leloup. The overweight dad is an even bigger fan of Laura from the 80s, that’s how Jean is familiar with her. It was so funny watching him fall all over himself the first time he meets her, while this irritates Jean’s mother.
Music especially in this film played a crucial role in telling the story. Belgian Writer director Bavo Defurne and co screen writer/producer Yves Verbraeken tapped songwriter and PINK MARTINI pianist Thomas Lauderdale to score the film. Lauderdale spent months getting to know Huppert as she was supposed to perform the lead songs. The title track SOUVENIR, was the original hit from the European song competition that made Laura famous. While the song JOLI GARCON was supposed to be descriptive of Laura’s love for Jean: ‘arms of concrete’, ‘heart of candy’.
For JOLI GARCON Defurne and Verbraeken were also credited as co songwriters along with Pink Martini’s China Forbes, Valentin Hadjadj and Thomas Lauderdale.
The music has a very catchy Latin rhythm with a very strong LSS (last song syndrome) effect. After watching the film don’t be surprised if you start singing the chorus: Je Dis Oui !
PINK MARTINI is a group founded by former U.S. politician turned musician Thomas Lauderdale in Portland, Oregon. He describes the band, “Our repertoire is wildly diverse. At one moment, you feel like you’re in the middle of a samba parade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next moment, you’re in a French music hall of the 1930s or a palazzo in Napoli. It’s a bit like an urban musical travelogue. We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad and therefore have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent a broader, more inclusive America… the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world… composed of people of every country, every language, every religion.”
Pres. Emmanuel Macron
Similarly it is this multicultural sentiment that the European Union and even the Cine Europa film fest celebrates. Diversity is something that should be preserved and feted. This is a facet of French ideals in Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite that President Emmanuel Macron believes in and campaigned for. He squarely defeated rightist, ultra-nationalist Marine Le Pen who ran on a campaign that was anti immigration. French voters agreed with Macron’s beliefs via a landslide victory over Le Pen during the last presidential election.
President Macron also has similarity with the character Jean Leloup in SOUVENIR as he has fallen in love and married an older woman. First Lady Brigitte Trogneux, was his drama teacher in high school. She is 25 years older but is seen as one of the most striking First Ladies in the world. This is more acceptable these days especially after his election. ‘The statistics are changing when it comes to a woman having a younger “monsieur” according to a new study by France’s official statistics bureau Insee.’ [From thelocal.fr article: French women going for younger lovers, study shows]
Cine Europa Partners
Cine Europa, according to EU Chargé D’Affaires Mattias Lentz, has earned a niche among film enthusiasts in the country because of its strong partnership and collaboration with its partners including Shangri-La Plaza, the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Arts Council of Cebu, Ayala Center in Cebu, the University of the Philippines- Visayas in Tacloban, the Visayas State University in Baybay Leyte Liceo de Cagayan in Cagayan de Oro City, Palawan State University and recently, Ateneo de Naga University. “We also owe a lot to our Filipino moviegoers who have supported Cine Europa for the last 20 years since the European Union started the film festival as a gift to the Philippines for the latter’s centennial celebrations”, said Mr Lentz.
Cine Europa Roadshow
After its edition in Shangri-La Plaza, Cine Europa takes a road trip to the cities of Baguio, Cebu, Iloilo, Tacloban, Baybay, Puerto Princesa and back to Manila. For the first time, Cine Europa is travelling to Ateneo de Naga University.
Facebook: EU Delegation to the Philippines
Written and photographed
By Jude Thaddeus Bautista
Beneath the flickering light of the screen, she sways. Moving slowly swinging her hips, arms, shoulders, in a smooth sexy rhythm…in high heels. Her eyes are on the screen above her, plucking the harp the way she plucks at men’s hearts. She moves to the music she makes, a sight to behold.
Even in the near darkness of the Shang Cineplex movie theater, we were all captivated with watching her. We would’ve been forgiven if we forgot there was actually a silent film we had to watch. The enchanting jazz music by Helouise La Harpe on the electric harp, Ryan Villamor (keyboards) and percussionist Aldous Castro was more than enough entertainment.
The fest ran from August 31 to September 3, 2017, featured a total of 9 Silent films from 9 different countries accompanied by esteemed musicians from the local scene. Opening the fest is EL GOLFO (1918) from Spain- Instituto Cervantes on 8 PM August 31 with music by TALAHIB.
September 1st Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND (7:30 PM) from the U.K.- British Council with music by GOODLEAF; THE NEW ENCHANTMENT (9:30 PM) from France accompanied by Helouise La Harpe. September 2nd A PERFECT FAMILY (3 PM) from Italy- Philippine Italian Association / Emb. of Italy with live score by TOM’S STORY; Yasujiro Ozu’s DRAGNET GIRL (5:30PM) from Japan – Japan Foundation with live narration from benshi Ichiro Kataoka and music by THE CELSO ESPEJO RONDALLA; Gym Lumbera’s TAGLISH (8PM) from the Philippines – FILM DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES with music by KAPITAN KULAM. September 3rd CAFÉ ELECTRIK (3PM) from Austria with music by RIVERMAYA; PANDORA’S BOX (5:30 PM) from Germany – Goethe Institut Philippinen with music by SANDWICH and Buster Keaton’s THE GENERAL (8PM) from the U.S.A with music from FLIPPIN SOUL STOMPERS.
The choice for Helouise La Harpe was actually perfect for the story of (English title The New Enchantment) L’INHUMAINE (1923) from FRANCE in more ways than one. The story involves Claire Lescot a captivating opera diva, played by Georgette Leblanc who was the most sought after beauty of her time. Her suitors were among the most powerful and famous men: A Maharajah – Djorah de Nopur (Philippe Hériat), an intellectual revolutionary – Wladimir Kranine (Léonid Walter de Malte) and the mysterious Einar Norsen (Jaque Catelain) who keeps his true profession away from prying eyes. The description of being inhuman comes in, as nothing these men did to please or capture her attention seems to satisfy her.
Percussionist Aldous Castro had several instruments at his disposal to produce a lot of different sound effects. But one of the most unique is The Hang (‘the hand’ in Swedish/German). It looks like a giant wok inverted with circular indents. He is able to hit it with one hand and control the vibrations with the other. There are wide varieties of sounds it emits that contribute to the mood of the scene.
In between scenes keyboardist Ryan Villamor would bark out moods and tempo. Among the silent film titles L’INHUMAINE had the feature of having different colored tints from shot to shot. Sometimes it would be sepia, green and of course the usual black and white. Cristina Moricca of PIA (Phil. Italian Association) shared a previous talk by cinema historian Nick De Ocampo. He said that these tints were an indication of mood for the scene, which was used in the silent era. Villamor also said that these indicators were quite helpful to the musicians. For modern viewers it could be disorienting, it takes some getting used to; imagine a feature length Katy Perry music video.
Directed by Marcel L’Herbier there’s a strong fantasy element to the film with elaborate sets. Claire’s home for example was palatial with pools and fountains complete with servants. In the story, Einar was so distraught by Claire’s perceived rejection he drives his car off the cliff. In spite of news spreading of the suicide, Claire decides to go on with her scheduled concert.
The theater hall was filled with spectators, and after one rabble-rouser heckles her for the suicide (for being inhuman) the whole crowd turns and chaos ensues. Just as people were about to mob Claire she begins to sing. In real time Helouise La Harpe also begins to sing in French. The mob that was about to tear Claire apart was so moved by her voice they begin to calm down. The live audience in Shang Cineplex were similarly moved by Helouise’ jazzy, hypnotic voice. By the end of the song the theater was in a rapturous applause for Claire and trouble had been averted.
This was one of those cinematic moments that evoke a deep emotion and stays with you. Made all the more special by a unique live performance. It doesn’t matter that it’s from a French film from nearly a hundred years ago. You don’t have to know or understand everything. All you have to do is watch, listen, the way Helouise was feeling the story, the music, with her body just moving to it.
Apart from the electric harp and her sexy moves, Helouise hid her most emotional tool: her voice, for the climactic scenes, including one dialogue where she sang as Claire spoke of love. There was an incredible applause after the film as she enchanted everyone in the cinema.
She is of French and Vietnamese descent. Her name is pronounced (with a silent H in the beginning) EH-LOO-WEES LA-HARP. Emb of France Audio Visual Attaché Martin Macalintal ‘discovered’ her while performing at the Makati Shang Rila Hotel’s French Week. He has earned high praises for acquiring her talents for the Intl Silent Film Festival Manila.
We converged in our favorite bar downstairs BROTZEIT, which has German, European and a lot of unique beers on tap as well as the best German cuisine. This is where Ryan Villamor spoke of ‘controlled improvisation’. Each musician had instructions on the mood and sound for the sequences at the same time the element of jazz gave them space to improvise.
Evidence of the power of Helouise’ performance, renowned abstract painter and portraitist Allan Cosio was so moved he gifted her with an impromptu sketch at BROTZEIT. He instructed Helouise to pose across the table. In a few minutes of strokes in charcoal he was able to produce a portrait that she warmly treasured.
Cosio also happens to be the father of Ina Avellana-Cosio of the FDCP and Intl. Silent film Festival Manager. Ina’s grandfather on her mother’s side is National Artist for Film Lamberto Avellana.
All in all it was a magical night that started with controlled improvisation in the cinema and ended with an impromptu portrait session in BROTZEIT.
UNDEGROUND from the British Council with GOODLEAF
Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND may have been the most technologically advanced (as far as camera work) not just in this batch but from the silent era. The quality of the digital restoration also seems better than films of later eras in the 30s or 40s for example. I’m unsure how much of it was the restoration or the image quality the filmmakers were able to achieve. Whichever the case UNDERGROUND was certainly ahead of its time.
Asquith was able to build suspense and emphasize emotion through camera movement, even editing. This was not commonly utilized in most silent film. The underground station will seem very familiar to today’s audiences. Its mind boggling to think that the underground has celebrated its centenary and is still very much in use today as it was back then. The tunnels to the trains, factories, even the power plant shows a London that was the very first industrialized city/nation in the world.
The very urban, industrialized theme of the film is perfect for the synth and electronic sound of GOODLEAF. Their sound is a rich combination of electronica and even reggae. This is a combination most commonly heard in the 1980s not unlike British band from the era: UB40. But GOODLEAF has its own updated twist with trip-hop and has their young fans that were also drawn to the screening. Their music gives the viewing experience of UNDERGROUND a more current interpretation that helps people today appreciate the film in a way they normally wouldn’t.
EL GOLFO from Instituto Cervantes with Talahib
El Golfo from Spain on the other hand pulls on the heartstrings. Ernesto is a street urchin who turns his life around and makes good abroad. This is similar to the OFW stories here in the Philippines. The drama comes when he tries to win back his childhood love whose parents supported his education and success abroad.
The combination of the film with band Talahib was very successful. Talahib uses native instruments like the hegalong along with drums, guitars and chimes. So the original Filipino sound mixed with the Spanish film results in something unique but at the same time we’re used to since the Philippines is a product of all these influences.
For Pinoy viewers the subtitles in Spanish had a lot of words in the Filipino language, so there’s that also that common bond. From everyday words like hijo, hija, noche, amigo to longer words like ignorante, origen, memoria, la muerte.
The band is composed of vocalist Janis Ann Añonuevo, Noel Taylo (percussion), Burn Belacho (guitar, hegalong), Mark Estandarte (bass), Domeng Molina (percussion), Jones De Vera (percussion), Darrel Roberto (drums) and Max Celada (percussion).
Percussionist Max Celada is also a member of the esteemed theater group Tanghalang Pilipino along with partner Sheenly Gener. I was able to photograph the couple on the last day of the ISFFM in Shang.
Sheenly was not able to catch Max’s performance with Talahib because she was shooting a film entitled SI APPLE, SI CHEDENG AT SI ELVIE. The Cinema One produced film has Gloria Diaz and Elizabeth Oropesa as its stars co directed by Rae Red and Fatrick Tabada. Sheenly can also be seen in the upcoming DORMITORYO in QCinema directed by Emerson Reyes.
Disclaimer: the opinions, thoughts, views in this article are solely from the writer, and do not reflect those of COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista and his family. Quotes, sources are highlighted, linked to or acknowledged when relevant. This was originally posted August 10, 2017 but has been revised, rewritten to accommodate newer information.
Written and photographed
By Jude Thaddeus Bautista
I first met COMELEC Chairman Atty. Andres Bautista when I was 14 years old through badminton. He was always just Andy to us. He wasn’t that much older (22); he was like a kuya or older brother. Andy along with his college buddy Vincent Rondaris were looking for a way to de-stress from the pressures of Law school in Ateneo. It was the late 80s, badminton wasn’t popular then. My parents, brothers and I all played together. We all enjoyed his easygoing, lighthearted personality. So much so that we’re still friends even after those years to the 90s, to this day.
That’s why when PDI (Philippine Daily Inquirer) broke the screaming headlines last August 7, 2017, Monday of his wife Patricia Paz Bautista accusing him of amassing P1 Billion in hidden wealth we were all shocked and dismayed. Tisha even accused him of emotional and verbal abuse under the acronym: VAW (violence against women). This was something none of us could believe, as I had never even heard him raise his voice against anyone or lose his temper throughout the years of knowing him.
PDI had designated a large print space on top for Tisha’s baseless accusations while Andy was given a corner at the bottom about a third of space for his side. As side note, it was indicated that he was making the official statements in the presence of his mother in law and in their residence. If Tisha really were abused, why would her own mother be more supportive of Andy? In spite of this obvious fact that would clearly disprove at least one accusation media, some Senators and congressmen have already pre judged the embattled COMELEC (Commission On Elections) Chairman.
Even PDI, a newspaper I often quote and praise for their reporting, seemed to be too eager in publishing these accusations. Andy, incidentally, used to be a columnist for their rival, the Philippine Star. PDI would make it a banner story the following day as well, publishing slightly more of Andy’s side.
Tisha’s own mother Baby Cruz-Vazquez has recently broken her silence and made a statement in support of Andy: “I’ve known Andy for many years. I know him to be an honest man, upright, God-fearing husband and father. He is a man of unquestioned integrity, the kind of man any mother would entrust her daughter to. This is why I cannot believe the accusations against him even if they are from my own daughter.”
Erudite and God fearing
Andy belongs to a very distinguished, erudite and God fearing clan. Former De La Salle University President Brother Rafael Donato was his uncle, the brother of his mother. He was very close to Brother Rafe and was very much affected by his untimely death from a swimming accident. Even when it wasn’t easy for him to do so he made the time to teach in DLSU, Ateneo and even PLM (Pamantasan Ng Lungsod Ng Maynila). He internalized his uncle’s mission of teaching and sacrificing one’s self to help educate others. This is something that Far Eastern University recognized and appreciated. That’s why they made him Dean of their College of Law.
Immediately after getting to the top 5 of the Bar exams he went to Harvard to earn his Doctorate of Laws. By the time he got back to the Philippines he was already working for U.S. based law firm White and Case. He worked in their Hong Kong branch and was instrumental in opening their office here in Manila.
Andy’s own brother Martin is a doctor and sister Susan has lived and worked in the U.S. but is now with the ABS-CBN Foundation specifically in BANTAY BATA. Knowing their brother’s frugal, stingy lifestyle, he was designated as the family treasurer. Their names are among the Luzon Development Bank passbooks that Tisha claims to be evidence of wrongdoing.
ANC Early edition interview of Martin Bautista
Successful Corporate Lawyer
He was already a very successful international corporate lawyer, way before he married her. It wouldn’t be surprising if he had earned or created some sort of wealth for himself, all perfectly legal of course. Although, this is by no means the 1 billion pesos she dreamed of.
What is more believable is that Tisha wants to include her share in all of Andy’s wealth even before the period of their marriage.
By the time they were married Andy also became the President of the Shang Properties Inc. This is the conglomerate that operates Makati Shang Rila Hotel, Edsa Shang Rila Hotel and Shang Rila Plaza Mall. So, again it is understandable if Andy has gained a certain amount of financial success. Because of his good career record and is admired, respected in legal circles President Noy noy Aquino appointed him as PCGG (Philippine Commission on Good Government) Chair and later on COMELEC Chairman.
Loyalty vs Qualifications
In hindsight, it would’ve been far more lucrative for Andy had he just stayed in the private sector. His life would’ve been easier, less troublesome. But because of his desire to serve the country and sacrifice himself the way that he learned from Bro. Rafe and his family, he chose to work for PCGG and later on COMELEC. There was this idealism that he never lost since the days I met him as law student decades before.
This is not unlike the very accomplished career of Albert Del Rosario who was Director of Metro Pacific Investments Corp and sits on the board of many top corporations and was a former Ambassador before he was appointed as Secretary of the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs). Del Rosario fought for the decision of international court in The Hague to rule in favor of the Philippines with China’s incursion in our territory.
There is this glaring gap between the appointees of President Aquino and current President Duterte who preferred to base them on support during the campaign as opposed to achievements and qualifications. Among them flamenco dancer and actress Liza Diño was appointed FDCP Film Development Council of the Philippines Chairman, whose father is a known supporter of Duterte. Then there’s Mocha Uson from the singing group Mocha Girls with the hit ‘Wag Kang Jejemon’ as Assistant Secretary in the Presidential Communications Office. Uson was also previously appointed to the MTRCB (Movie Television Review and Classification Board)
Hands Not Really Off
The issue of loyalty vs qualifications, loyalty vs independent thinking goes to the very heart of the conflict between Andy and Patricia. When PDI broke the news on Monday August 7, it was about Tisha meeting with President Duterte (July 26) and showing him the passbooks and documents supposedly as evidence of corruption. On August 1, the President met with Andy. The President has gone on to say that he was hands off on the issue between the marital spat.
Meanwhile his supporters/allies, namely DOJ secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Senator Tito Sotto have expressed their intentions of investigating the corruption accusations on Andy from wife Tisha. The possible impeachment or forced resignation of Andy as COMELEC Chairman has lot of political implications. Since Andy has proven to be impartial, objective in his post, the president has no control over him and has a longer tenure.
There is fear from some quarters that Duterte will take advantage of the situation to wrest control of the COMELEC. Clearly Andy has been objective without partisan biases. That’s why the last election was universally praised with dozens and dozens of international observers who hailed the honest and efficient manner that it was conducted. That’s what’s at stake here now.
They’ve done it before
Previous events give credence to this fear. In 2014, Vice President Binay was leading the Presidential polls. Senator Allan Peter Cayetano then led a hearing into the investigation of corruption charges against Binay. The VP would never recover again in the polls after that. Cayetano’s motives would not have been questioned except for the fact that he became the running mate of Mayor Duterte. He was seen as ‘paving the way’ for Duterte in the presidential elections in 2016. As reward Cayetano was appointed DFA Secretary.
Democratic System of Checks and Balances
Democracy in the Philippines is very much threatened. Democracy isn’t just about individual rights, although we ALL know how much President Duterte values it. His famous quote being ‘Human rights? AMBOT!’ (Roughly translated from Visayan: Whatever). House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has already threatened ‘to strangle the Commission on Human Rights budget to the point of the agency not being able to operate and exist anymore’. This was after President Duterte wanted the CHR abolished. (from Rappler.com: Give CHR zero budget if it cannot be abolished – Alvarez)
Democracy is also about the natural checks and balances of the main branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. That’s why Trump and Duterte don’t understand why a Supreme Court judge ruling sometimes curtails their powers as president. Or when Trump can’t just ram through his legislative agenda in the U.S. congress and senate.
According to Britannica.com : The framers of the U.S. Constitution, who were influenced by Montesquieu and William Blackstone among others, saw checks and balances as essential for the security of liberty under the Constitution: “It is by balancing each of these powers against the other two, that the efforts in human nature toward tyranny can alone be checked and restrained, and any degree of freedom preserved in the constitution” (John Adams).
Presidents don’t have absolute power for a reason.
Human Rights Watch executive Director Kenneth Roth writes, “Unfettered majoritarianism, and the attacks on the system of checks and balances that keep governmental power constrained by rights and the rule of law, is perhaps the greatest danger today to the future of Western democracies.”
Here in the Philippines it’s already far worse.
Lower House Control
We have both the Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez and majority house leader in Cong. Rodolfo Fariñas who are known and proven to be Duterte’s strongest allies.
From Rappler article Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte’s lieutenant at the House :
‘He has the backing of the 250 members of the House supermajority, their sheer number giving Alvarez comfort that Duterte’s pet bills could be passed under his watch…His anointment as House Speaker by the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) was not a surprise. Alvarez, after all, played a crucial role in Duterte’s rise to the presidency.’
The same article states: ‘Alvarez, PDP-Laban’s secretary-general, convinced his party to have one member – Martin Diño – file his certificate of candidacy (COC) on the last day to give Duterte another shot at being president.’ This is the same Martin Diño, whose daughter Liza Diño was appointed FDCP Chair as mentioned earlier.
The connection with Martin Diño in this case is also relevant as he is the former Chairman of the VACC. The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption is the same organization that has filed impeachment cases against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno AND COMELEC Chairman Andy Bautista. (From Rappler article: VACC starts impeachment case buildup vs Chairman Bautista) They also filed the criminal case against Senator Leila De Lima, long time critic of President Duterte that led to her arrest. (From ABS CBN News: VACC insists case vs De Lima is ‘strong’)
Current VACC Chairman and founder Dante Jimenez has himself said: Ang VACC at si President Duterte iisang pusod lang ang hinuhugotan e: anti crime, anti corruption, anti-illegal drugs. My brother was killed by a drug syndicate…Matagal ko na siyang kaibigan” [Pres. Duterte and the VACC are joined at the hip for the same causes… He is a long time friend.]
This is from an interview of Dante Jimenez on UNTV’s Get it Straight.
Facts speak for themselves. While President Duterte says he is ‘hands off’ on the marital spat, his appointee in DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has expressed intentions in investigating Andy Bautista. (Philstar: DOJ Expands Probe on COMELEC Chief)
The VACC an organization that has close ties with Duterte has already filed an impeachment case against Bautista in the lower House that happens to have a Speaker identified as a Duterte ‘Lieutenant’ in Pantaleon Alvarez, with ‘supermajority’ leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
In the upper house Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III has initiated an investigation on Bautista. “Sotto said he filed Senate Resolution 456 for the purpose of coming up with appropriate amendments to Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.” [From GMA NEWS ONLINE: Sotto: No politics in seeking Senate probe on allegations vs. Comelec chief ]
Our Judiciary has independent minds, so judges are maligned. Our president has repeatedly criticized Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. He also has an ongoing word war with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. They are both women with unquestionable integrity and sharp legal minds, who won’t cave in to his whims or close their eyes to the many extra judicial killings and possible cases against the policemen who have perpetrated them. The supposed arrest of Mayor Parujinog that led to his death is only the latest among high profile figures.
Now people are up in arms with the killing of Kian Lloyd De los Santos, the 17 year old who was accused as a drug runner. Seeing the reaction, the President said “Intel is intel. So, if there is no probative value, how can you use it in court and to the people? Those are just information gathered by the police and the military. It is an internal thing… Maya-maya mali iyan (it may even be wrong).” [from philstar.com Duterte: Police intel on Kian could be wrong]
Kill 1,000, I’ll Protect You
His reaction to the Kian case contradicts his famous July 2016 statement, “Do your duty, and if in the process you kill one thousand persons because you were doing your duty, I will protect you. And if they try to impeach me, I will hurry the process and we will go out of the service together” [from philstar.com: Duterte to PNP: Kill 1,000, I’ll protect you]
The inconsistencies in his statements, underline his combative stance against members of the judiciary. In his word war against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales he said, “I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated. Human Rights Commission, you address your request through me because the Armed Forces is under me and the police is under me. And for the Ombudsman to refrain from citing them in contempt for what? Because I have the authority to give the final say whether they will attend (an investigation) or not.” [from Inquirer.net : Ombudsman Morales tells Duterte: Anong Pakialam Niya?]
In summary, President Duterte’s Lieutenant (coined by Rappler) Pantaleon Alvarez is Speaker of the House, with Rodolfo Fariñas as head of a ‘supermajority’. The President has a combative stance against members of the Judiciary as enumerated above. And an organization that has admitted close ties with the President, the VACC, has filed impeachment cases against Chief Justice Sereno, COMELEC Chair Andy Bautista and previous to that a Senator in Leila De Lima who has had a long history of criticizing Duterte.
In a truly progressive, mature democracy, the more independent the branches of government (Executive, Judiciary and Legislative) are from each other, the stronger the system of checks and balances. They are there to counter as John Adams puts it ‘efforts in human nature toward tyranny.’
The COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS is one such sensitive agency of government that has to be completely independent of the pressures and powers of the president.
Even if he is impeached or if he resigns Andy Bautista will not be the biggest loser here, it is our country. He came from a more lucrative private practice to serve the people. He has taken more stress, criticism and flak than he ever would if he just stayed as a successful international corporate lawyer.
If President Duterte appoints his own COMELEC Chair it will further weaken the system of checks and balances that is supposed to be inherent to our democracy. The possible impeachment and or resignation of Atty. Andres Bautista is the latest threat to our already weakened democracy.
(not yet complete but will be updated)