On the Situation in the Philippines: Come See Ma’Rosa

Just a few days out from screening the critically acclaimed Ma’ Rosa in Stockholm and Lund at the first Swedish Human Rights Film Festival, we sat down to talk to Steffen Jensen who’ll participate in a Q&A after the screening of Ma’ Rosa on April 1 in Lund. He’s a Professor in the Department of Culture and Global Studies at Aalborg University and a Senior Project Researcher at the Danish Institute Against Torture (DIGNITY). Book your tickets now in Stockholm and Lund.

The Philippines is in the news a lot right now. What’s your take on the crackdown that’s taking place against so-called drug dealers and criminals?

It is a truly bewildering sets of events set in motion by the national elections. The election of Duterte has produced the expected results of violence in terms of extrajudicial killings, carried on from his time as mayor in Davao where he lorded over a brutal regime of killings against those described as drug dealers. However, the Philippines also elected the most prominent human rights defender Leni Robredo as deputy president. Furthermore, there are also historical paradoxes and tensions. The state has killed its citizens for decades in what is referred to as salvaging, that is, saving the nation through killings. However, since the fall of Marcos, Philippines has had a vibrant and highly vocal civil society organized around human rights. These trends have and still exist simultaneously and paradoxically.

What impact is it having on the people there?

The war on drugs has had enormous consequences, especially in poor, urban areas. Many are afraid, not least for being reported to the police, even if they have no problems with drugs. It seems that a snitching culture has emerged and heightened tension between neighbors. An already corrupt police force has also seized on the moment and engaged in still more extortion.

If you look at what’s playing out in the Philippines right now, do we see similar patterns in other countries?

While the Philippines is rather extreme in this way, the tensions between a human rights regime and order maintaining practices can be identified in a number of other questions in the global south – for instance in South Africa where I have worked before. However, repeated wars on drugs, gangs and terror in the global north is not far behind but are using more legislative means than the violence of the Philippine state.

Why did you want to participate in this event?

I want to participate in this event because human rights need to be discussed and defended in as many ways as possible and the film media offers a fantastic avenue for maintaining that discussion and the human rights film festival is an absolutely fantastic occasion and initiative.

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