In memoriam: 'BuyBust' pays tribute to Marawi casualties, slain PDEA consultant

MANILA, Philippines – Director Erik Matti's BuyBust – a movie that follows the life of an anti-illegal drugs agent (played by Anne Curtis) – has earned praise and a few raised eyebrows, particularly given the controversy surrounding the real-life campaign against illegal drugs in the Philippines.

Many have praised its commentary and willingness to take a hard look at prevailing policy. And if it feels too real for comfort, we might just have the late Chekie Llerin to thank for that. (READ: 'BuyBust' review: Violence, deaths, and discourse)

Chekie, said director Erik Matti in a Facebook post, served as the film's PDEA consultant. The PDEA or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, is the country's lead agency in all anti-illegal drug operations. Anne Curtis plays a PDEA agent in the film. 

"Chekie Llerin was the PDEA consultant assigned to give us the hard truths about what goes on on the ground in the drug war without prejudice to any sector affected by it. He was gunned down in front of his house two weeks after we finished shooting. He was with his wife after their wedding anniversary dinner," said Matti, in a post explaining the story behind the people to whom the film was dedicated too. 

Also named in the credits were 3 soldiers who made cameos in the film. "When BuyBust started shooting, we used the fresh graduates of PMA [Philippine Military Academy] in the scenes where the PDEA team of Victor Neri were training in a military camp. These soldiers were in the opening credits of the movie marching, training and running around the camp with the PDEA team," he said.

"Shortly after we left SOCCOM [Special Operations Command] where we shot those scenes, these PMA graduates were deployed to fight in Marawi. These were the soldiers who didn’t make it back," added the director. 

Philippine soldiers and police were deployed to Marawi City after ISIS-affiliated local terrorists attempted to take control of Islamic city. More than 100 government forces  died as a result of the conflict. 

Matti said the film was also dedicated to Noe Evangelista, one of the film's stunt guys; Lupe Romulo, film musical director Erwin Romulo's sister; and legendary fight and stunt director Baldo Marro.

BuyBust was screened in several international film festivals and opened this year's Cinemalaya Film Festival. – Rappler.com