Detail of protest art posted by SAKA (Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo)
SAKA Facebook page
Artists' groups call for release of nabbed Panday Sining activists
( - December 1, 2019 - 2:39pm

MANILA, Philippines — Artists' groups are condeming the arrest of four Panday Sining activists in Manila on Saturday over protest art to mark Bonifacio Day and are calling for their release.

Panday Sining, which was recently in the news for protest slogans they painted on the walls of a Manila underpass, said the four—one of whom is reportedly a minor—were arrested by police in civilian clothes after the Bonifacio Day protests.

"To commemorate the birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, Panday Sining’s protest art posed the question: 'What would Bonifacio do?'," the group said in a statement.

It said the protest was done in the context of "de facto martial law" and the government's operations against legal activist groups in its "whole of nation approach" against communist rebels.

"Protest art in the time of narrowing space for free and critical thinking is not only just but necessary," Panday Sining said.

"We demand the immediate release of these people’s artists," the group also said.

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines, in a separate statement, said it was "downright absurd and offensive that the arrest happens during a day that commemorates and in fact stresses the need to continue the legacy of nationalist and revolutionary Andres Bonifacio."

Both groups noted that there were reports that the activists were manhandled during the arrest, with "at least one was kicked in the chest during the process of arrest."

SAKA (Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo) said the arrest showed the government's lack of respect to the memory and principles of Bonifacio, a leader of the Philippine revolution.

"It is an insult to the independence that the Katipuneros fought for to drive out the exploiters from the archipelago," the group said in Filipino. "The freedom to fight for the rights of the masses who are being exploited by the ruling class up to now." 

It said that just as the Katipuneros were right to revolt against colonial Spain, it is also correct to resist "during the time of terrorism by the fascist Duterte regime and US and Chinese imperialism."

Artists BP Valenzuela, Mich Cervantes, and independent record label NOFACE RECORDS have tweeted their own messages of support for the arrested activists.

Vandalism is prohibited in the City of Manila under Ordinance No. 7971, which penalizes any person who defaces public and private property.

Panday Sining protest art in an underpass in Manila earned the ire of Mayor Isko Moreno, who warned groups in early November that "if I catch you, I will make you wipe that off with your tongue."

RELATED: There is more to graffiti than 'making a mess,' activists say

Later in November, Moreno tried to scrub off grafitti that said "CLIFF261" with paint thinner but failed.

He said the grafitti would have to be painted over, claiming the money for that could have instead been used to buy money for the city's residents or for construction materials for other city structures.

He said then that citizens have the right to express themselves but that they do not have a right to vandalize public property.

"Am I interfering with your righs? You are free in Manila. But you don't have a right to create a mess in Manila," he said in Filipino.

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