4 Thoughts That Make Corruption Possible in “Anatomiya ng Korupsiyon”

Anatomiya ng Korupsiyon is a 2011 film directed and written by Dennis Marasigan, based on a play by Malou Leviste Jacob.

It stars Maricar Reyes as Atty. Cely Martinez, a new lawyer who works at the Family Court. She does her job well–too well for the other lawyers, stenographers, and clerks who have been earning extra income by charging clients fees and accepting monetary “gifts”, which is illegal. In the middle of the film, Cely learns that everyone is practically in on it, including the judge, and even the clients who seek their help expect to hand out money in return for a hearing or trial or simply to get the attorney to side with them.

The best thing about the film is that it doesn’t revolve around a big-time corruption scandal. It portrays the everyday corruption that happens in the Philippines, especially in the justice department. It is these simple occurrences that give corruption a place to thrive and exist.

Here are several things that the characters of the film do and say to defend why they pratice corruption.

Their income is not enough.

The lawyers get money from their clients per session, but Cely pursues speedy justice. One case she inherited from her predecessor had been going on for so long, but she managed to end it in one session. One of the lawyers commented that, if this were to happen often, they’d starve.

When a client tried to give Cely money, she refused and said it was part of her job. The stenographer, Bok, expected money for jotting down the notes during their session but because Cely didn’t accept the money, he didn’t get his portion either. His comment, “My wife won’t have money for grocery” says it all.

Even Cely, a government attorney, struggles to pay for her mother’s medication and hospital bills, and she doesn’t even have her own family to support.

Their clients are rich.

Manang Charing, the stenographer assigned to Cely, told the latter that she shouldn’t worry too much about extorting money from their clients because they’re all rich anyway.

When Cely asks where the poor people go for help, Manang Charing can’t answer.

It’s true that every client who comes through their doors can afford to pay, but only because the poor already know they would need money to get a quick trial or a hearing. In short, they don’t bother.

Everybody’s doing it. (Even your boss)

When Atty. Ric Ricarte talked to Cely about her not taking bribes and “gifts”, he told her that she was being foolish and that she would face administrative charges for insubordination (he’s her boss apparently).

It was during this time that you, the viewer, will feel frustrated and angry at the system. Cely tells him she’s a public servant “in every essence of the word”. She does her job well and she doesn’t take bribes, but it’s her who might be disbarred?! It’s her who might lose her job?! It’s her who is the black sheep. It’s her who is not a team player.

Ric gives Cely three options: A) she stays and faces the charges against her, B) she plays nice with them and do what they do, C) she resigns.

He also reminds her that corruption will always be around, that it will never go away no matter who sits at the head of the table (the film is set in the Marcos era, yet everything that happens mirrors the present-day status quo).

This was why, when Cely told the judge about the missing adoption case folder (which Bok hid so that the case would drag on), she was surprised to learn that no one backed her up. Her entire office was against her.

There’s no way out.

The film’s last scene is of Cely trapped in the elevator during a brownout. It’s not a horror film, but it might as well be. She says, “Help” many times until, finally, she turns to the audience and breaks the fourth wall for the first and last time. “Help,” she asks.

It is, perhaps, the most depressing image in the entire film. I was waiting for Cely to make a decision, to see whether she became a “team player” or whether she resigned and stood by her principles. Instead, Marasigan leaves us with a distressed public servant, the one who wants to do good, the one who upholds justice… the one who has to be corrupt if she wants to keep her job, the one who will most likely encounter the same corruption in other offices she works in.

It’s this character being stuck in a limbo with no way out that is most frightening. “What if this happens to you?” Marasigan seems to be saying. It’s a scene that will continue to stay in my head, a scene that reminds me why I have a cynical view towards mankind most of the time, a scene that traumatizes me and makes me hate the idea of working for an institution, a company, a government office.

Anatomiya ng Korupsiyon is both a condemnation of the kind of society we have and a challenge to change it. But it makes one wonder, who’s up for the task?

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