MIRRORS: Looking at the Face of Injustice in the Philippines

Thoughts on Fact Sheet 43: an exhibit for the honor of the Morong 43

According to the revolutionary leader and poet Mao Zedong, “All dark forces, which endanger the masses of the people, must be exposed…”[1]

Upholding the progressive tradition in art and literature, these very words of the famous revolutionary Chinese leader, had emboldened the 43 artists to expose the injustice and terror plaguing the Filipino society today.

XL Ysulat Fuentes, Cleng Yu Julue, Tilde Acuna,  Aye Sarapuddin, Maricon Mendez, Brian Lee, Richelle De Cruz, Rustum Casia, Mikel Mozo, J. Luna, Bjorn Calleja, Mica Cabildo, Maan de Loyola, AJ Tolentino, JL Burgos, Marika B. Constantino, Mimi Tecson, Wes Valenzuela, Ray Zapanta, Zeus Bascon, Con Cabrera, Bobert Elyas, Leonilo Doloricon, Kiri Dalena, Bobby Balingit, Che Marty, Vincent Silarde, Bong de Leon, Aerosmith Masa, Teta Tulay, Mean Batas, Thrianne Gellido, Recci Bacolor, J. Pacena, Don Djerassi Delmacio, and Pau Reyes have made their canvases testimonies of how the State had become an apparatus of fascism and terror.

The State, the one supposedly safeguarding the rights and welfare of the people had become a monster that savagely devouring the freedom and liberty of its very people.

***

Last February 5, 43 people were stripped off their freedom. They are health workers, working closely with the masses of the people, especially in those far flung areas wherein health and medical services are scarce or closer to none.

In the spirit of genuine volunteerism, they have devoted themselves taking care of indigent patients for a minimal or no fees at all.

However, on that fateful day of February 5, they were all arrested, tortured, incarcerated and for a time, held incommunicado. They were accused of being rebels, enemies of the state because of their dedicated and genuine services to the masa.

Aside from being doctors, midwives, nurses and health care aides, they are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters, too.

On that very moment that they have been captured (read: abducted) by the military and the police, they have left in their homes little children, needed to be fed and taken care of. The have also left husbands and wives, mothers and sisters, brothers and fathers, lonely.

Because of their imprisonment, they have deprived of their freedom being mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives for their families: a gross violation of the 1987 Constitution, which states that the State should be the one taking care of the families, keeping it intact, being the primary unit of this society.[2]

***

For this reviewer, the works in exhibit are but the manifestation of the struggles and conflicts that are happening inside the Philippine society and any other societies where different classes, with different interests, exist.

As V. I. Lenin states:

…in any given society the strivings of some of its members conflict with the strivings of others, that social life if full of contradictions, that history discloses a struggle between nations and societies as well as within nations and societies…[3]

In the Philippines, the conflict is between the landlord and the bourgeoisie comprador class, and the working class like of the Morong 43.

Though they were doctors and nurses and midwives, their labor had been reduced into ordinary labor, therefore being deprived of all the privileges and benefits of their profession.

However, because of the spirit of genuine volunteerism and love for their countrymen, they have decided to serve the marginalized. But the State did not like that for their genuine love and service for the masses had crystallized and concretized the inutility and inability of the State to provide the necessary social services to its people.

Thereby, the State forces have decided to repress and oppress them by accusing them as dissenters and at the end, filing legal charges against them and incarcerating them.

But this is not new to a government being run by the elite, oppressive class. It is its very nature, social observers say.

As one is moving from canvas to canvas, the spectator can reaffirm the truthfulness of the observations of socialist thinkers, the likes of Louis Althusser, who said that

The State apparatus, which defines as a force of repressive execution and intervention ‘in the interests of the ruling classes’ in the class struggle conducted by the bourgeoisie and its allies against the proletariat (working or the repressed class – information supplied by the author), is quite certainly the State, and quite certainly defines its basic ‘function.’[4]

If we will to define or explain this fact clearly, it can be reduced into a few words: The State is actually a vehicle of terror and has a very violent nature that it uses its apparatuses—the armed forces, the courts and the different departments and agencies under its wing—in suppressing its people in order to preserve the social order where the elite or the bourgeoisie class benefit from.

As Althusser explained it:

The role of the repressive State apparatuses, insofar as it is a repressive apparatus, consists essentially in securing by force (physical or otherwise) the political conditions of the reproduction of relations of productions which are in the last resort relations of exploitation. (First italics supplied by the author).[5]

Furthermore,

Not only does the State apparatus contribute generously, to its own reproduction (the capitalist State[a] contains political dynasties, military dynasties, etc.), but also and above all, the State apparatus secures by repression (from the most brutal physical force, via mere administrative commands and interdictions, to open and tacit censorship) the political conditions for the action of the Ideological State Apparatuses.[6]

***

If we are to assess the works of the participants of this new edition of Fact Sheet, the 43 artists had been successfully of communicating or exposing to their audience the evils existing in the Philippine society today.

They have “mirrored” exactly of how the government has been repressing its people, as a reaction to the people’s clamor for genuine change and for their legitimate demand of adequate and quality social services such as health and education.

Moreover, the works have successfully given a face to the so-called violations of the universal and specific rights, not only of the Morong 43 that served as the primary subject of the exhibit, but the Filipino nation as a whole.

On the last note, let everyone—every spectator—reflect on each “mirror” hanging on the walls of the exhibition area and to examine the facts being reflected in there and assess if they do really replicate the events happening in the Philippine society today or this is just a bunch of propaganda. And everybody must say, Amen.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971.

Fremantle, Anne (Ed.) Mao Zedong’s Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature on Mao Tse-tung: An Anthology of His Writings. New York: Mentor Books, 1962.

Chan-Robles Law Office Online. The 1987 Philippine Constitution (electronic copy), 1998. Accessed, 16 June 2010.

Lenin, V. I. Introduction to Marx, Engels, Marxism. New York: International Publishers, 1987.


[1] Fremantle, Anne. (Ed.) Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art and Literature on Mao Tse-tung: An Anthology of His Writings (New York: Mentor Books, 1962), p. 260

[2] Article II, Sec. 12, 1987 Philippine Constitution, on Chan-Robles online, http://www.chanrobles.com/article2.htm, retrieved on 16 June 2010

[3] V. I. Lenin, Introduction to Marx, Engels, Marxism, (New York: International Publishers)  1987, p. 67

[4] Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (New York: Monthly Review Press) 1971, p. 137

[5] Ibid. p. 149 – 150

[6] Op. cit. 150


End Note:

[a] In the Philippines, the sociopolitical system is neither capitalist nor feudal, but semi-feudal and semi-colonial. (Cf. Amado Guerrero’s Philippine Society and Revolution for further discussion about the origin of this state of the Philippine society.