“Law is associated with literature from its inception as a finalized attempt to structure reality through language.”-Kieran Dolin


When we talk about justice, or social justice for that matter, we do not think of literature first. We might have thought of the law, courts, trials, the scales of justice. But not poems, one-act plays, short stories, and essays. Perhaps people think that law and literature are too different from each other, or that justice can only be portrayed when it is shown or told in relation to the law.

When the news shows another teenage boy has been killed as he was mistaken as a drug addict by the police; or when videos of an old man who was shot on broad daylight circulate social media platforms, what can we do? We express our rage, our dismay, our dissent through different forms of expression—language utilized to demand for accountability. 

This is not new to us as we have had a long history of protest literature. From the horrors of Martial Law in the time of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., to the war on drugs in the administration of Duterte, writers have used their voices to show the grim realities experienced by ordinary Filipinos at that time. Literature has not only become our tool to reflect the horrors and hardships created by fascist administrations, but it has ultimately become a weapon for the call of change and justice. This issue of Katitikan is a weaponry: each piece is a tool that utilizes language to clamor for social justice. 

Mikhail M. Bahktin, literary critic and philosopher, claimed that the word of law and the literary work are both examples of the “authoritative word”—narratives which shape how meanings are constructed throughout time. Hence, we must see the pieces in this issue as words of law. They may not be written in the legal language, and they may not be laws per se, but they contribute to the discourse of what justice means and how it can be attained. 

Mark Any Pedere’s dula entitled “Troll” talks shows how deceit, through the creation of curated and leading Facebook posts, became a machinery for some people to stay in power. Meanwhile, Malaya Lapiña’s “Ikalawang Kamatayan” shows that amidst the cases of transwomen killings, these women die “a second death” when their lived name is not used in new reports, as if their whole identity is erased. 

“Biting Mouths, Bitten Hands” by Kent Reymark Tocayon feature a character working multiple jobs to make ends meet. He ends the story with a wishful thinking for the hope of better days for the working classes:  

“I wait by the sidewalk, taxed by the whoosh of vehicles speeding past me. The stoplight is in glorious red. And I think for a while, red… I know these pockets of resistance would lead me somewhere, I just know. For now I will take this as a sign.”

In Taguilaso’s “Evidence”, the poem utilizes legal references such as the halls of court and evidence to show how the current justice system is portrayed:

A black revolver blooms
within the bag. Books remain scattered
by the road. There was an attempt at escape.
They will call this evidence
as they pronounce him dead.
They will place the cold slab of his heart
on a scale and swear
how it weighs heavier
than a feather.  

Also, in the series of poems by Castillo entitled “Isang Araw Habang May Class,” he shows how the youth live with the violence brought about by a fascist administration. One of the poems in the collection entitled “Tumbang Preso” captures one of the pressing issues of lowering the age of criminal responsibility.

The essays, plays, stories, and poems of this issue are works of literature that we should read as words of law for these pieces contribute to the meaning-making process of what social justice is and how our society is clamoring for it to be served. For now, we take these pieces as weapons of change for the wars of injustice to come.

By Ria Valdez

Ria Valdez is from Davao City. She teaches in the Department of Humanities in UP Mindanao. Her works are published in Dx Machina: Literature in the Time of COVID-19; Tingle: Anthology of Pinay Lesbian Writing, Plus/+, At Iba Plus, Maramihan: New Philippine Prose on Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities, and Press:100 Love Letters. A collection of her poems entitled “Sum of Her Parts” was published last 2021 under the Road Map Series.

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