The 2020 Filipino-American documentary A Thousand Cuts directed by Ramona S. Diaz follows President Rodrigo Duterte’s vocal critic Maria Ressa who has placed her freedom on the line in defense of her country’s democracy.
The film opens with Rappler journalists, Ressa included, at the company’s headquarters as Duterte delivers his 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA). The viewer is offered only a fragment of Duterte’s speech, which nevertheless illuminates the president’s singular focus on his war on drugs. During the address, Duterte vows that the war on drugs will be «as relentless and chilling […] as on the day it began,» his voice is uncompromising, and so is his resolution to rid streets of alleged drug addicts and pushers with brute force.
«Your concern is human rights. Mine is human lives,» Duterte says to the dismay of the Rappler CEO. The camera zooms in on Ressa as we hear her utter, «Wow». However outrageously crooked, Duterte’s statement about his «concern» for human lives is hardly surprising. When a country is in the thrall of a populist leader, the concern for human lives is largely exploited to gain a stronger foothold in the political arena and eventually usurp all power.
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