‘Is this the new Filipino life?’ Manila rappers blast Duterte’s war on drugs

Published 12:34 AM EST, Wed March 8, 2017
01:17 - Source: CNN
Rapping against the war on drugs

Story highlights

Metro Manila rappers express their anger, frustration and loss through their music

The group, One Pro Exclusive, were friends with Micheal Siaron, whose drug war killing was highly publicized

(CNN) —  

The death of Micheal Siaron last July might have gone unnoticed; just one of the over 7,500 lives – so far – claimed during Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

But on the night of his killing, his partner, Jennilyn Olares, hurried from their shared shack in the Pasay City neighborhood of Santo Niño.

Upon seeing his body she pushed aside police officers and curious onlookers and instinctively drew it to her chest.

The waiting gaggle of press photographers had their shot. The next morning the image of the grieving woman and her partner, seemingly shot by vigilantes, was splashed across the front pages of the nation’s newspapers.

They called it the Philippines “Pieta” photo, a nod to Michelangelo’s sculpture of the same name, in which Mary clasps the dying Jesus.

The 'Pieta" photograph, in which Jennilyn Olayres clings to the body of her partner, Michael Siaron, who was shot dead by an unidentified gunman in Pasay City, Metro Manila, in July 2016.
PHOTO: NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images
The 'Pieta" photograph, in which Jennilyn Olayres clings to the body of her partner, Michael Siaron, who was shot dead by an unidentified gunman in Pasay City, Metro Manila, in July 2016.

CNN special: City of the Dead: A neighborhood destroyed by Duterte’s war on drugs

Gone, not forgotten

If not for the searing image, Siaron might have been forgotten. Olares moved away after their home – which had perched on stilts precariously over a stinking, trash-filled canal – was demolished.

The shanty home -- now demolished -- of Jennilyn Olayres and Michael Siaron, who was shot dead by an unidentified gunman. The image of his body being cradled by Olayres was seen around the world.
PHOTO: NOEL CELIS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The shanty home -- now demolished -- of Jennilyn Olayres and Michael Siaron, who was shot dead by an unidentified gunman. The image of his body being cradled by Olayres was seen around the world.

But even without the notoriety of his death, his memory might have lived on in another way.

Members of a local rap group called One Pro Exclusive, whose cramped home studio is in a tenement in the neighborhood where Siaron once lived, have paid tribute to their slain friend with hip hop.

The song is called “Hustisya,” the Tagalog word for justice.

“When I wrote the song … I was thinking of my friend, who was just trying to earn a living as a pedicab driver, but became a victim of the war on drugs,” says Justins Juanillas, the group’s main rapper.

The group also hail from Santo Niño – the same “barangay,” or neighborhood – as Siaron.

Just like in the early days of hip hop in the Bronx, rappers in the poor neighborhoods of Manila draw from their background – its poverty, powerlessness and arbitrary injustices – for inspiration.

And the deaths meted out in the name of the war on drugs, which critics say disproportionately targets the poor, are a target for the country’s artists.

’Justice’

Juanillas, stage name Jay, is wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word “Hustisya” and the hashtag #stopkilling.

01:34 - Source: CNN
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