Daily news on the reactions of the Duterte administration’s security cluster over the three-year-strong ABS-CBN teleserye, “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” (originally starred by Philippine cinema’s King of Action and then-presidential aspirant or some may claim loser only through elections cheating—Fernando Poe, Jr.) were monitored in the last week, just like how Filipino audience hang on the stories of their favorite primetime soap operas.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año top-billed the daily tit-for-tat offensives against the Coco Martin-starrer hit action-drama series.

Albayalde and Año seem to be striking coordinated jabs against Ricardo Dalisay aka ‘Cardo’ (in the titular role of Ang Probinsyano) as they were consistent in threatening the show producers, creative team, actors and the Kapamilya network of being charged in court for “giving a bad impression of the Philippine police forces.” Duterte’s top security officials even banned the show’s production team from using PNP facilities and assets for taping and shooting purposes.

The PNP’s criticisms and threats to “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” drew flak from the show’s followers, legislators, netizens and cultural artists groups, as the PNP’s pronouncements were said to “set a dangerous threat to freedom expression.” Artists cry foul over issues of censorship, looming dictatorship and curtailment of artistic freedom—especially with the PNP’s offer to meddle into the storyline if only to stop their threats.

The attack against Cardo of his fellow men in uniform in the real world is not a new thing in our country’s history.

Voltes V and the Marcos dictatorship

‘Batang 70’s’ knows and remembers well how their childhood were robbed of their favorite animé shows by the late dictator president Ferdinand Marcos during the dark days of Martial Law.

Stories from Martial Law kids and survivors were clear that on 1979, the Marcos regime banned ‘Choudenji Machine Voltes V’ and other Super robot titles like ‘Mazinger Z’ or ‘Getter Robo’ and ‘Charlies Angels’ from being aired on television.

Despite having an extremely strong following, Voltes V and others were prohibited to be shown supposedly because “the station airing it was beating two other government-run station in the rating,” and “that the shows have violent contents and had negative impacts on children” during those times.

But most Filipinos did not buy such excuses from Marcos. Some says that the theme and storyline of Voltes V, narrating resistance against an aristocratic empire and unity and collective action to triumph against evil, is the real and main reason for the ban of this program.

Aside from its plot, more than the censorship against Voltes V, the attack of Marcos against free press and the worsening state of human rights under Martial Law were said to inspire the Filipino people in rising up in EDSA on 1986 that toppled down the tyrannical rule of Marcos.

True enough that Voltes V marked a historical significance in Philippine history.

Cardo and the Duterte dictatorship

Four decades after, history seems to be repeating itself with the repression of Cardo and ‘FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano.’

With the current run of the story of the hit series, characters portraying the oppressed Filipino people were starting to question the status quo as corruption, extrajudicial killings, rights abuses and other social ills were being rampant in the fictional teleserye setting.

The story even reflects issues of labor disputes, ecology, environment, mining, drugs, insurgency, peace, up to concerns of urban planning and rural set-up.

The production team of ‘FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano’ already defended their program and has been consistent in reiterating their disclaimer that the show is fictional and is not aimed to destroy reputation of individuals and institutions.

Aside from free expression advocates and groups, the show also gained sympathy from FPJ’s daughter and Philippine legislator Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares, who also defended the program and said she sees nothing wrong with its plot as it sheds reality on the state of the police institution.

To normal viewers, the storyline of the show sometimes only mimics or echoes the headlines in the news—and this technique actually continually gave the show second wind in its long-run (when normally shows were signed for only three months and to extend depending on its popularity). What better way to grip viewers’ attention if not show their favorite actors portray and experience what normal people already know and experience in the real world?

The stories and plot of Voltes V characters up to the epic story of Ricardo Dalisay are part of fiction. But they do tell us to look to real issues and stories. And to lessons that prove people’s struggles and collective actions are needed to question and oppose oppression and social evils. To bring about change.

After three years of FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, the story has wound and wound and now its millions of followers muse its inevitable happy ending, a happy ending for its protagonist who used to be in the blue uniform—if the show is even anywhere near it’s popularity’s end. And just like in television and movie programs, where conflicts were being resolved by confrontation scenes and that good prevails over evil acts, our social problems against dictatorship and tyranny in history may only lead to a common ending — the fall of dictator regimes and a happy ending of Filipino people struggling for genuine social change.

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