Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Tabada: Domestics

A FILM still of “Kisapmata,” the 1981 masterpiece of Mike de Leon, is both a recreation and a reversal of the tableau in Bethlehem.

There is still a man accompanying his wife, heavy with child. They wait to be let inside a house, its lighted upstairs window seeming to be a beacon in the swirling dark.

A neighbor’s Christmas “parol” completes the Nativity scene. However, this man-made star streams a weaker light, a visual cue that de Leon’s diorama negates all that the créche in Bethlehem stood for: love, redemption, life.

An off-duty policeman shot in point-blank range a mother and her son during a personal dispute in Paniqui, Tarlac.

A witness recorded from an overhead vantage point the four times Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca clicked the “gatilyo (trigger)” of his service sidearm and ended the lives of Sonya Gregorio, 52, and Frank Gregorio, 25.

In film language, the camera angled downwards is a panopticon of surveillance and judgment.

In “Kisapmata,” the upstairs window monitored by retired policeman Tatang Dadong (acted by Vic Silayan) exposes the limits of our view: we see what we only want to see.

Enraged citizens called for the punishment of Nuezca and even his young daughter, who joined the confrontation and walked away from the bodies.

Fewer voices questioned why Nuezca is still in the force despite being flagged for five administrative cases within six years, including two homicide complaints dismissed for lack of evidence.

The Tarlac double murders of unarmed civilians by an off-duty cop using his official firearm is an “isolated” incident that has not convinced President Duterte to rescind his order, made in 2017, to allow off-duty police to carry sidearms as protection from “armed communists.”

Human rights watch groups estimate that more than 8,000 to 20,000 persons were killed by the police since Duterte took office in 2016.

During the three-year War on Drugs, poll after poll showed that the wealthy and the educated rated Duterte’s performance from “very good” to “excellent,” his popularity only slightly dipping among those with less income.

In “Kisapmata,” Dadong’s wife Dely (Charito Solis) is cleaning the couple’s room while watching television. She accidentally touches the gun placed underneath her husband’s pillow. Without once taking her eyes off the TV screen, she returns the pistol in its drawer on his bedside table.

When I was newly married, I learned, before buying glassware, to run my fingers over the surface. The eyes can be distracted; the fingers detect any surface flaw. From Marcos to Duterte, the culture of impunity domesticates us. We sleep with the enemy; we keep them in office.


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