September 21, 2017, the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the country, became a Day of Protest. Several protests called for an end to tyranny and extrajudicial killings. The normalization of extrajudicial killings linked to the government’s war on drugs has been alarming, to say the least, but shows no signs of abating. Recently, the proposed budget next year for the Commission on Human Rights was slashed down to a mere Php1000, rendering the Commission useless. Now, more than ever, it is vital for people to speak out and express their views about the issues we are facing today. Art can be used as an outlet and platform to speak truth to power. Social Realist stalwarts such as Antipas Delotavo, Jose Tence Ruiz, Pablo Baen Santos, Renato Habulan and others sought to expose the true conditions of society. The new generation of young artists today can hopefully continue what the Social Realists started and carry the torch. Here, we look at artworks that tackle and even critique Philippine society and politics.
This allegorical painting graphically shows the crucifixion of Jesus, emphasizing his bloody and bruised body. It allows us to look at Jesus Christ in a different light, not only as one who sacrificed his life for our sins, but also as an innocent who was sentenced to summary execution. The grim hooded figures in white look on at the dying man. As with Ku Klux Klan members, their identities are protected by the disguise they are wearing. The work raises questions about who gets to decide guilt or innocence, and consequently, life or death. Parallels can be drawn to extrajudicial killing and the climate of impunity.
The subject in Odang’s satirical painting is a policeman who is rewarded and fed for executing drug suspects.
A man, perhaps representing government or corporations, sits atop an
enormous piggy bank, controlling farmers and workers like a puppeteer
would. Neil Defeo’s work illustrates how power is consolidated in the
hands of a few while the working class ceaselessly toils and suffers.
President Duterte is portrayed as someone who projects the silhouette of Marcos, suggesting that the shadow of Marcos and Martial Law looms large even now.
Juanito Torres depicts Marcos formally announcing Proclamation No. 1081 in a live television broadcast from Malacañang Palace on the evening of September 23, 1972. The declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines forever changed our history.
Proclamation 1081 suspended civil rights and imposed military authority in the country, leading to human rights abuses and widespread excesses.
With the Malacañang Palace in the background, a feast is laid out for the rich and powerful to indulge in. The masses beg, with hands outstretched, for scraps from the table.
Signs of extrajudicial killings are suggested in the pile-up of bodies with their heads bound and the hand of the deceased clutching a gun. At the center of the painting is the face of a child, which begs the question: What does the future hold for the next generation when extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses are allowed to continue?
(Artwork Collection of Metrobank Foundation Inc.)
In his Autocrat Series, Chavez takes an inquisitive approach to his portraits of dictators, who are likened to animals for their ruthlessness. He fashions dictators in an unbecoming state of being hog-tied and having their mouth stuffed with flowers.