I thought I had seen it all when I watched a reality star, racist, gender bullying male become President of the United States. Little did I know the best and worst was yet to come in the form of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. Not only is he ALL of those things, but outright warned citizens that he they were caught using drugs – he would kill them earning him the nickname of Dirty Harry.
What we are seeing is a thousand cuts to the death of our democracy, so many cuts that it weakens us until we die. These are the words of Rappler CEO and former CNN Reporter Maria Ressa. Press and reporters are facing scrutiny and criticism regarding their transparent media coverage of their government’s political regime and policies (which are parallel in America) resulting in unnecessary arrests and retroactively resurrecting cyber laws in order to do so. A Thousand Cuts follow her journey of shifting from friend to foe of the Philippine government due mostly to her criticism and reporting on President Duterte. Audiences are given a birds eye view into Maria’s personal, professional and political life. Nothing was more disheartening than watching her ride with a bullet proof vest for fear of being murdered and nothing more rewarding than her taking it one day at a time planning a family getaway and kicking it with her good girlfriend from home.
Elected in 2016, Duterte infected the political scene as Mayor working his way to President ultimately unseating the Marcos family, which had been the political dynasty in power for decades. Understanding the power of social media, the politician befriended influencer Mocha Uson and her 5 million followers aiding in his rise to power. Depending on who you ask, Duterte is either a tyrant or a savior. A sentiment that we witness on a daily basis in the United States with Donald Trump.
Directed by Ramona S. Diaz, she craftily conveys relevance press freedom with how Duterte manipulates, bullies and abuses his power by any means necessary. Watching him brag about his male anatomy, comparing the smell of women to dried fish and calling them ‘Bitch’ flagrantly displays his disregard for anything or anyone that is not interested in doing his bidding. It is also noted how these types of politicians use social media and Facebook algorithms to post lies laced with anger and hate. Did you know that it spreads like wildfire through one account linked with 25 fake accounts and can influence up to 3 million others? Can you even imagine what that does to democracy and freedom of speech? For men like this, the law continues to be bent until it is broken with an end goal to help citizens doubt the facts.
Diaz follows several opponents and supporters (Bato and Samira Gutoc) running for office and how they do everything from serenading crowds to Beyonce’ type rally performances to good old fashioned shaking and hugging Filipinos in the streets. The Philippine regime war on drugs has become a war on the poor, just as Immigration laws and DACA have become the impetus for attacking hard-working men and women from earning a living just for some political pundit or party to have their agendas met. Whatever the case A Thousand Cuts will leave you a little more educated into the political process through the eyes of a country that we have more in common than not. It is also a gross reminder that what happens in America happens everywhere else. Why should we care about the Philippines? They spend more time than another county on the internet and social media – two entities that are proving to be vital in our own democracy process leading into the Fall 2020 election.
Maria Ressa may have put this on our radar, but the struggle and fight for democratic freedom of the press corps and her beloved Filipinos continues to rage on as it does here in America.
Produced by Chris Clements, Christopher Clements, Ramona S. Diaz, Julie Goldman in association with PBS, join PBS Distribution and FRONTLINE (PBS) for a Special Virtual Livestream Q&A for A THOUSAND CUTS ( moderated by Christiane Amanpour), Ramona S. Diaz’s award winning powerful look at the attacks on the free press in the Philippines and its implications globally. Go to eventbrite.com for more information.