Law and Order Manila: the Musical
© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin.
In the criminal justice system, non-musical offenses are considered especially heinous. In Manila, Philippines, the hard-working officers who maintain order and the hardened criminals who are sent to prison can dedicate themselves to song and dance. These are their stories.
The first clip shows 55-year-old traffic cop Ramiro Hinojas putting on the moves on Odessa Street in Pasay City. The less-than-orderly drivers of the city enjoy the performances of this lowly paid father of three. They show their approval by honking their horns and following his inventive directions.
As one of 16 children from a poor family in Central Philippines, Hinojas came to Manila as a boy. He became a traffic cop after he was laid off as a security guard. The job can be hazardous. Road rage sometimes forces attacks on officers by exasperated commuters. Fortunately for Hinojas, passersby often buy him food or donate cash to supplement his $3-a-day wage.
The second clip shows the officer donning a Santa Claus outfit in the humid December weather.
At the Cebu Provinical Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Central Philippines, accused murders, rapists and drug dealers performed elaborate routines choreographed to such tunes Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Billie Jean. The idea came from Byron Garcia, the prison governor who wanted to enliven the sparsely attended exercise sessions.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo once condemned a life sentence in a Philippine prison as being worse than death. That was once the case here, with violence breaking out at least once a week. With the musical program, prisoners found purpose as they rehearsed for performances that are given to visitors and broadcast on the Internet through YouTube. Violence became a rarity. The prisoners have appeared in Founding Day celebrations, receiving cash awards in the process. The prison has received numerous donations from the government and private citizens.
Sony Music took notice and filmed a version of Michael Jackson’s This Is It that included Garcia, the prisoners, as well as Michael Jackson’s longtime choreographer, Travis Payne, and dancers Daniel Celebre and Dres Reid.
Unfortunately, due to accounting irregularities, public performances were suspended in March 2010. Many of the prisoners have since refused to take part in the performances because they had no audience. However, offshoots of the program have appeared in Quezon City and Manila City Jails.