Discipline as the Highest Form of Power: An Open Letter to Filipinos

Subject: Discipline as the Highest Form of Power: An Open Letter to Filipinos
Date: 21 Nov 2019

We cannot deny that we all know little to no Filipinos who had not been living a life full of criticisms, may it be from his/her own self or from others. In the Philippines, we already got used to criticize and to be criticized to the point that sometimes, we get out of hand. People tend to critique everything that happens around them—how other people dress, the way someone talks, selfies of a random stranger, as well as things that happen in politics, and many others—without even analyzing it deeper to know how and why such things happen. Let us take the issues in politics as an example.

Many of us want to have change in the justice and correctional systems in the Philippines. We expect the current administration to be able to implement these ‘changes’ the past administration was not able to do. But we should also know that all this is not just only about what the government implements, it is also about how they implement it and how each institution and constituent of the society works. When something happens in a way we don’t expect, we always blame the government and those people who are ‘higher’ and ‘more powerful’ than us because we claim that they always have the control over us.

Let us look at these through how French philosopher Michel Foucault sees prison as described in his book Discipline and Punish. In this book, Foucault departs from the idea of power as something exerted by the government, by a king, or by those with material wealth. Power, he says, is “discipline”.

Going through the issue of crime rate in the country, several institutions were built to hold people who committed delinquent acts or crimes and are segregated depending on the gravity of what they had committed. Let us consider the prisons. Prisons were built to reform, rehabilitate, and to deprive a person of his/her freedom. They say that such institutions are being built to lessen the crimes and also for the inmates to change their way of life into a better one. However, there had been several problems reported recently on the situation of the inmates in Philippine prisons and on the current justice system such as packed/overcrowded prisons, sudden death of several inmates due to unknown reasons, and increase in death toll due to the war on drugs. How can these things affect the ones involved? How can we explain these happenings?