I wanted to send out a great big THANK YOU to all of you who braved the rains and floods to watch Give Up Tomorrow in Manila. I am especially grateful to Paco’s witnesses who came from all over the Philippines to attend the screenings (I last saw most of them when they were 17, 18 years old being berated on the witness stand or waiting outside the courtroom , only to be told that they could not testify. Now they are parents, business people, lawyers, teachers, solid members of the community who, fifteen years later, are STILL ready to tell the truth to anybody who cares to listen!).
Marty and Michael, I pray that your film will be shown in Philippine theaters and on Philippine television. I believe that if people can watch this documentary with open hearts and open minds, the whole country can begin to be vigilant in preventing this kind of injustice from ever happening again.
For fifteen years, there’s not a day that goes by that I do not wish I had a time machine to go back and stop Paco from entrusting his life to a justice system so completely and hideously broken that he would end up being locked up for the rest of his life , with a traumatic detour on Death Row, where he taught himself to accept that he would be legally murdered for a crime he did not commit.
In a moment of weakness , I once asked Paco how he felt about the documentary being shown in the Philippines. Surely, like me he must be anticipating it with dread and a sense of futility. After all, if we’ve learned something these 15 years it’s this : The law provides the innocent no real protection, no one cares about the truth and the TRUTH, if it doesn’t have mass appeal or isn’t going to score any political points, certainly isn’t going to set you free. And most of all, we learned that good doesn’t always triumph over evil.
BUT, Paco insisted, we also learned that it’s PEOPLE who protect the innocent and TRUTH and JUSTICE are darned worthwhile causes to fight for. Sure, we’ve been beaten over and over but every time we get knocked down, we have to get up and fight again. It may be too late for me, but there will be others you can save. So, don’t call a winner yet!
I looked into Paco’s old man eyes and wondered how deeply he must have to hide away the pain so he can keep us strong. Sometimes he seems like a 19 year old kid and sometimes it seems like he’s 90. An innocent boy who has grown into a man in prisons . He must be broken in places and ways that I can never imagine. But , my brother and all the others who are wrongfully convicted, no matter how broken they are, they are worth fighting for.
For the same reason, just because this broken system has , ironically, failed both my family and the Chiong family doesn’t mean we should just roll over and accept it.
Am I going to be just like everybody else, through the years, who watched this terrible injustice happening to Paco and his co-accused, who could have done something to stop it, who could have done something to fix it but they turned to look the other way instead?
I want to stand beside people like Marty and Michael, who were brave
enough to make a film that shows the cracks where the innocent fall
I want to stand beside the amazing people who organized private
screenings and school screenings, so that more may become aware and be inspired to become better future members of the judiciary or to pick up a camera to tell the story of those who have no voice.
I want to stand beside the journalists, bloggers and writers who came and examined media’s power to lynch innocent people. I don’t think they are going to let anything like this happen again on their watch.
I want to stand beside the law-makers and community leaders who took the time to come and watch the documentary. I heard that most of them were shocked and appalled by what happened 15 years ago. We look to them now to make things right and usher in a new age where this kind of injustice has no place.
Perhaps, with this documentary, people will finally stop looking away and start asking the hard questions: how could this have happened and how can we change things so it will never happen again?
GIVE UP TOMORROW cinema release in Metro Manila.
Oct 3 at Robinson’s Ermita & Galleria
Oct 5 at Ayala Greenbelt, Alabang & Trinoma
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