ALMOST 2,000 land and environmental defenders were killed between 2012 and 2022 for protecting the planet, according to a report by human rights NGO Global Witness. Last year, 11 of the deaths were from the Philippines.
This information provides important context for the Emmy-nominated environmental documentary Delikado, which premiered in the country in the 2022 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.
The film follows the plight of three land defenders in a David-versus-Goliath battle to preserve the country’s forests in Palawan, sometimes referred to as our “last ecological frontier.”
Despite its educational value, Delikado hasn’t been allowed to screen in cinemas nationwide since the festival and has instead made the rounds via school, community, and private screenings.
For producer Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, the film’s nomination for outstanding investigative documentary at this year’s Emmy Awards is only one mark of its success — the other is for it to be seen by more Filipinos.
“Our human rights advocacy partners, DAKILA and Active Vista, help us get groups who also champion environmental and human rights causes to screen it, but there are still many more NGOs who can use it for their crusades,” Ms. Alikpala said at a community screening on Sept. 12 in Quezon City.
Delikado reveals the harsh realities of illegal logging in Palawan, largely instituted by big developers and politicians in the region.
The producers have not been able to arrange commercial screenings. “We did approach commercial cinemas here but they all turned us down. Nobody wants to screen the film, but they say we can just rent a theater for private screenings,” she added.
Another challenge for its distribution is the harassment faced by the central figures of the documentary — Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI) executive director Roberto “Bobby” Chan, former El Nido Mayor Nieves Rosento, and PNNI para-enforcer and land defender Efren “Tata” Balladares.
Though Ms. Rosento lost the election to the member of a family that the documentary accuses of land-grabbing in Palawan, and Mr. Chan was declared persona non grata in the province and has been forced to run his environmental network remotely from Metro Manila, it’s Mr. Balladares who is at greatest risk.
“He’s visited by a masked man on a motorcycle every time a pirated version of the film leaks in Palawan or anything about it spreads on Facebook,” said Ms. Alikpala. Hence, a screening of the film on the island that it is about is out of the question for now.
“We also can’t just put it on platforms like Netflix because we want discussions around it, a real campaign. We certainly won’t be the first priority that people care to watch on streaming sites,” she added.
At the community screening organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), many audience members showed an interest in having it screened because of its educational value.
Behind the usual image of Palawan being a resort paradise thanks to its pristine beaches, majestic rock formations, and lush forests are the land defenders and rangers that urbanites never hear about.
“It’s hard to just talk and campaign when people don’t know what it looks like, whose lives are affected,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, a Filipino national environmental campaign center for grassroots advocacy, at the post-screening forum.
He explained that this year’s Global Witness report on land defenders shows just how timely the documentary is, even though it was filmed in the Duterte era. “The situation is the same, if not even worse, nowadays,” he said.
Delikado has been screened to students for students who were given study guides for them to discuss with their teachers afterwards.
For the average Filipino consumer, the film can provide many lessons.
“It definitely helped me become a more conscious tourist. We once stayed at a hotel owned by the [landgrabbing] family. It was a really nice resort but you can never really have fun knowing that it came about by displacing indigenous people,” Ms. Alikpala said.
“From then on, you have to be a conscious consumer. That’s the kind of change [the documentary] can impart.”
For information on film screenings, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. —Brontë H. Lacsamana