What lies beyond ‘Brother Hood’?



TO EXPERIENCE police impunity is a crime, but to endure the same episode twice is a violation of human rights. Award-winning photographer and forerunner of Philippine photojournalism Alex Baluyut debuted his photo book exhibit titled “Brother Hood,” which pertains to the name of the group of policemen belonging and appointed to watch over the corners of Metro Manila, on Oct. 11.

In his exhibit, Baluyut condones the inevitable necessity to point out the parallelism between his old photographs and the rampant killings provoked by the administration’s war on illegal drugs.

The impressive and poignant exhibit can be found at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB). The collection comprises of twenty photographs from the photo book along with their textual interpretations.  

Coke break, Quiapo, Manila, 1993. photo by SHANA ANGELA S. CERVANIA/THE FLAME

One may find this photograph relatively typical and vague for it just shows a man handing over bottles of soft drinks to a highly amused police officer. Harmless as it may seem, these spontaneous gestures and definitive expressions accentuated by the characters are indications pointing to a hidden agenda of the police. As persons who are the first to arrive at a crime scene, police officers are rendered enough authority for them to manipulate the people involved in a crime to do something unfavorable in exchange for immunity.   

Buenaventura Daang clutching a grenade takes a child hostage while Elipidio Caayan holds a knife to Deputy Warden Calderon, Manila City Jail, November 26, 1993. photo by SHANA ANGELA S. CERVANIA/THE FLAME

Needless to say, so much is taking place within this captured moment apart from the noticeable demeanor of skeptic characters. In this photo, an armed man is looking intently at the camera. Beside him is a man clutching a live grenade in his hand while carrying what seems to be an unbothered child in the other. In hindsight, these characters appear to behave deliberately casual in front of a camera despite the commotion taking place.

Street children line up at the fiscal office, Western Police District, Manila, 1993. photo by SHANA ANGELA S. CERVANIA/THE FLAME

Brimming with emotion and the apparent yearning of freedom, this photograph delineates a phenomenon which occurs inside the terrains of Western Manila police. The reality behind these passive and vulnerable delinquents is the restraint that they are forced to exhibit is a result of the constant oppression and harassment administered by authorities.

Anti-Narcotics Unit, Western Police District, 1993. photo by SHANA ANGELA S. CERVANIA/THE FLAME

Another photo showing what appears to be a typical scenario is actually a representation of how police impunity reigns in the country. Dwelling behind closed doors is the dreadful reality of arrogance and dominance within the walls of a police district. It is shown here that the police are not even bothered by the way they appear in front of other people, primarily of the media, who are witnessing improper discourse taking place.

The exhibit of Baluyut intends to ignite the consciousness of every Filipino on the unceasing rule of unjust authority. It wants to establish a united community vigilant enough to snatch away power from the hands of the unrighteous who continue to uphold prejudice and immorality over those inferior to them. F

Brother Hood is on display until Dec. 12 at the Photography Gallery, School of Design and Arts Campus, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

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