Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Performing Prisoners of the Philippines

After uploading the blockbuster rework of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on You Tube which garnered more than 6 million hits, the Philippine Prisoners of Cebu City have just recently uploaded an encore, Giorgio Moroder's "Electric Dreams".

Performed by around 1,500 inmates with crimes ranging from murder, rape, and drug trafficking, the latest video is meant to express gratitude to all who supported the uploaded file, and to remind themselves, their relatives and friends; and possibly other inmates around the globe, that they could still be together in electric dreams.

The prisoners have become some sort of celebrities. According to prison authorities, no serious violence has taken place in 18 months since they initiated the dance exercise. The inmates too feel a renewed sense of self-worth, prompting one to say that his 7 tear old kid knew him only as a prisoner and was ashamed to tell classmates about his dad. Since the Thriller video, he was proud to claim that his father is the main man in the dance exercise. The father, Crisanto Niere, said he is proud to know that his son is proud of him.

US prison officials claim that the dance exercise will not work with American prisoners. The changes it brought to the mental and emotional perspective of prisoners and guards in Cebu City was inadequate reason for these US authorities to even attempt a trial.

America has 5% of the world's population with 25% of the world's prisoners. Shouldn't they be trying something that could work? Considering the violence that occurs in its penitentiaries, all the talk about human rights, humane treatment, and reform to make prisoners return to society's fold is all empty rhetoric. I have yet to hear a Presidential candidate include prison issues in their swagger about human rights as a campaign promise. Perhaps it won't make them win, but all their posturing is obnoxious. It could also be because most prisoners aren't white.

The downside in the Philippines is that justice grinds exceedingly slow. Some prisoners in the video have been waiting for a trial date ranging from 3-5 years. Some may even get the death penalty if they go to trial. The CNN report put it aptly when they described being charged in the Philippines as similar to getting a life sentence.

The dance video is cool, and apparently choreographed by someone growing up in the 1980s. With the state of the justice system in the country, perhaps a new song would be more appropriate. A later decade perhaps with a Dave Clark Five song entitled "Forever and a Day", or even a 1980s tune by Rick Astley titled "Together Forever". That's because that's how long these guys may be with each other before their ordeal ends.

" ...Together forever and never to part, together forever with you.." This situation sucks!


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