Scene from documentary "On the President's Order"
On the President's Order/Twitter
Docu on Duterte’s drug war to be shown in New York human rights film fest
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - May 27, 2019 - 12:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — A documentary highlighting the role of law enforcers in waging President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs will be shown in a human rights film festival in New York next month.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival will screen the documentary “On the President’s Orders” on June 15 and 17 at Film at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in New York.

Central to “On the President’s Order” is Jemar Modequillo, the Caloocan police chief at the time of the filming.

In the trailer, Modequillo asked: “Papatayin ba natin ‘yan? May buhay din ‘yan. Pero kung matigas ang ulo, patayin talaga.”

(Are we going to kill them? They are human beings. But if they are stubborn, then we kill them.)

Filmmakers James Jones and Olivier Sarbil filmed Modequillo and his men in a span of six months to capture the murderous campaign in action. They also followed the civilians whose loved ones were killed in the drug war.

Police said the policy that has drawn international censure has killed about 5,300 alleged drug personalities—mostly living in urban poor communities—who fought back.

But human rights watchdogs have higher estimates—more than 27,000 since Duterte took office in 2016.

“‘On the President’s Order’ is an unflinching exploration of President Duterte’s brutal ‘drug war’ and its devastating impact on thousands of mostly poor Filipinos,” Carlos Conde, HRW Asia Division researcher, said.

Glimpse of drug war’s sidewalk-level consequences

Variety called the 72-minute film a “wholly cinematic, sensory experience with straight-ahead reportage.”

It noted the documentary’s objective is not to provide a political analysis but to show the sidewalk-level consequences of Duterte’s policy.

“The idea here is not to aestheticize a human rights crisis but to show the absurd move-logic shoot-‘em-up that Duterte has allowed the Philippines to become, right down to the ‘Fury Road’-style death’s masks worn by the executors. Populist politics can turn all too easily to popcorn ones,” Variety Film Review noted.

It added: “‘On the President’s Order’ vividly captures the tipping point.”

“On the President’s Order”—produced by A Frontline and ARTE France—will also be shown in Sheffield Doc/Fest on June 7.

It will also be available in TV and streaming platforms.

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