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I was too stunned to react after seeing Give Up Tomorrow, which to me, was a sign of how it crushed my faith in the justice system in the country. Before seeing the film, Pam swore that when the credits rolled, I’d be driven mad by the ineptness of the Philippine government (as I usually am) but instead, I was overcome with sadness and hopelesness, especially when I think of the countless names and faces who are victims of injustice, most especially of the bureaucratic kind.
The film is centered on Paco Larrañaga, the primary face behind the seven men accused of and eventually convicted for murdering the Chiong sisters. I was a teenager when this case, which happened in a relatively peaceful and prosperous province, shook the country, and I still remember how Paco and his co-accused were immediately villified, notwithstanding the lack of hard evidence and balanced reporting. News reports were so biased against them––and there were no other sources of ‘credible’ information then––that the ordinary person had no other recourse but to turn against them as well. Jessica Zafra also makes an excellent point about how the case became the perfect storm for social-class stereotyping:
And there is Larrañaga himself – a large, fair-skinned mestizo from a well-to-do family, whose color, ethnicity, economic status and family connections made him so easy to demonize.
The documentary makes a steady and reasonable case for the defense. Interviews from Paco’s family were as tempered as they could possibly be (given their situation), that at one point, you could see how the father’s lips were trembling in an attempt to reign in his emotions. I thought that was the most heartbreaking moment in the film. (Talking about the movie’s production value seems trivial at this point, but let me just say that it is one of the best I’ve seen; the editing was unassailable.)
On the other end you see Mrs. Chiong, mother of the murder victims, and her actions floor you. I can’t tell for sure if her interviews/clips were taken out of context but again, the film had been very sober in its presentation, so I’ll leave it to viewers to be the judge of her character. Personally though, I find it hard to villify her as I can only imagine the pain of what she had gone/goes through, as if she has an excuse not to act out of logic.
What disheartened me the most though was not the royal incompetence of the justice system. (Make no mistake, I’m shocked by how the Supreme Court handled this.) I honestly think the media could have turned things around, especially when the case hearings were going downhill. There was an angle about a drug lord connection, which any of the journalists could have pursued but didn’t. (However, I also understand that journalists can only do so much and that they also value their lives.) Skipping the preceding step, they could have cited the irregularities in the courtroom, which had turned into a circus. Or they could have simply been fair, accurate, and reasonable in their news reports. (I could only smirk as TV journalist Teddy Boy Locsin makes a douchebag of himself through his grossly biased reports clip after clip.) I thought the Larrañagas were too nice, naive, and level-headed not to have tried to win public sympathy through press interviews; I wished the media had done their part and approached the family for their story.
This documentary does that but I’m afraid it’s been over a decade too late.
Give Up Tomorrow is having a limited run and would only be shown until Tuesday, October 9 at Robinson’s Galleria and Ermita, SM North Edsa, SM Megamall, SM Manila, SM Mall of Asia, SM Southmall, and SM Cebu.