Just like most Filipinos who are currently very enraged not just by the shooting in Tarlac, but what it says about us as a country, I also saw the video first thing in the morning and we probably all went on with our days, went to work, ran some errands, got home, but never really shook off how that short clip made us feel.
I thought that aside from the deaths, one that lingered to me is the calmness and ease in the face of the murderer while pulling the trigger, unaffected by the fact that he just ended two lives in front of his daughter. It’s almost as if he feels endowed with the power to do so. It’s disturbing because we know that this happened many times, but this is the only moment we’ve seen the visceral feeling of helplessness in the hands of a man whose duty is literally the opposite of what he did.
Throughout the day, I wondered what part have I taken (or not taken) in enabling a nation that tolerates, if not glorifies brutality. It shakes your conscience in a way that makes you think on whether as a law student, will I really be instrumental in holding people accountable regardless of their power or will I also cower in fear?
What happened was a violation of a law, sure, but beyond that, it is a manifestation of how low the moral threshold of our system is, that it has come to a point where we only get justice when the injustice is filmed.
As Filipinos, we understand what it means to be categorized when red-tagging became the go-to strategy in silencing political sentiments. But if you’re holding a badge and you’re more offended by the idea of being generalized than you are angered by the abuse happening under your watch, then it says a lot about where your sense of responsibility lies.
The danger with saying that this does not happen often is that we deviate from the narrative that this pattern of behaviour is being institutionalized. That’s how we lose the traction that we need to get actual reforms that hold the authorities to a higher standard of responsibility.
The incident also revealed a lot of our disposition when people started throwing insults at the child who is also a victim in her own right, despicable her behaviour may be. In a way, three people died in that moment, as she was robbed by her parents of the opportunity to be what she is – a child, devoid of ill-intent and capable of reform. She may turn her life around years after but she can only change as much as this society allows her to. I guess the ultimate question is how do we heal from a system that refuses to acknowledge its own dysfunction?
Some of us think that as students of law, there isn’t much we can do, and that’s true to some extent. But acts of protest don’t always have to be grand. Just remember that every ballot you fill-out and every injustice you condone is a vote to the kind of world you want to live in.
Rohanimah Guro or Ace worked as a local producer for Al Jazeera English’s Fork the System Series. She was also featured in The Stream of the same network. Ace was the translator for Channel News Asia’s documentary Get Real: Escape from Marawi. Prior to pursuing law school, Ace briefly served as a writer/volunteer for the International Organization for Migration of the United Nations. She is one of the Associate Editors in The Nexus.