Award-winning director Kip Oebanda was not particularly pleased that the Philippine National Police is trying to campaign against his film “Liway” in its efforts against communist rebels.
He claimed in a tweet the state forces were “distributing anti-terrorism flyers” against the Martial Law-related movie and “lumping it with their anti-NPA (New People’s Army) and anti-drug campaign.”
I just verified news that a PNP office is distributing anti-terrorism flyers against our movie, LIWAY & lumping it with their anti-NPA and anti-drug campaign. I wonder if they actually watched the movie. This is a dangerous precedent but I am open to a dialogue with them.
— Kip Oebanda (@kipoebanda) October 5, 2019
“I wonder if they actually watched the movie. This is a dangerous precedent but I am open to a dialogue with them,” Oebanda added.
Some Filipinos raised their eyebrows at the PNP’s move, calling it a form of censorship.
Others supported Oebanda by asking if “Liway” is still showing in cinemas.
This was not the first time that the independent filmmaker has defended his film from such allegations.
Last year, Oebanda—along with various filmmakers, artists and professors—gathered in front of UP Cine Adarna to publicly denounce claims of communist recruitment through film screenings about the Martial Law period.
“The story being peddled by the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is not true,” he said in a press conference before.
“Our film is actually a very apolitical film. We don’t call out current politicians. We only talked about a real incident that happened during that time (martial law). And we don’t even mention any political figures in the film. It’s very unfair, I think,” Oebanda added.
He also mentioned that he “welcomes” any form of criticism, debates and discourse about the film.
“But don’t tag us as NPA recruiters just because we talk about people who were jailed during the martial law era. Just because you tell a certain reality doesn’t mean you’re brainwashing people to believe that reality. In fact, we welcome criticism, debates, discourse. That’s what democracy really is about,” Oebanda said before.
“Liway” is based on a true story about a mother who uses stories, music and art to shelter her child from the harsh realities of living in a prison camp during Martial Law.
It received the Special Jury Commendation at the 14th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, as well as the Audience Choice award.
The PNP and its anti-insurgency campaign
The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army in July resolved to intensify their joint campaign against the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, on social media.
Some police personnel underwent a journalism training where they were taught to come up with concepts and content for infographics and social media cards aimed at combatting terrorism and insurgency.
“This would really help us in effectively reaching out to the public and communicate to them the truth and facts. We could not afford being fooled by the lies and propaganda of the CPP-NPA terrorists,” First Lt. Wilfredo Quilang, commanding officer of Bravo Company, 30th Infantry Battalion, said.
Months before that, some members of the PNP during the 2019 midterm elections were spotted distributing newsletters red-tagging progressive party-list groups Bayan Muna and the Makabayan bloc as “New People’s Army supporters.”
Election watchdog Kontra-Daya Metro Manila said it received multiple reports of the activity, including a video of an unidentified man distributing the newsletter within the premises of a polling precinct.
The Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines prohibits the presence of policemen, special forces or security guards inside voting premises, unless in events of an actual disturbance.
It also prohibits the posting or distributing of any printed matter advertising for or against any candidate or political party.