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Manila singling out artists’ group because of its beliefs, say activists

/ 09:25 PM December 06, 2019

MANILA, Philippines—Why single out Panday Sining?

The militant activist group Anakbayan said the city government of Manila should also declare as persona non grata, or unwelcome, gangs or individuals who splash graffiti on walls in public places.

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The absence of a similar move against other groups, including politicians, who paint their names, images or weird messages showed only that the crackdown on Panday Sining was not about the city’s cleanliness and beautification program but about politics.

Anakbayan said Panday Sining was targeted because of the leftist messages of their artworks around the city streets.

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“Declaring an entire group as ‘persona non grata’ is a first for the National Capital Region,” Anakbayan said in a statement.

“This sheds the state’s facade that the four have been arrested on the grounds of vandalism,” Anakbayan spokesperson Alex Danday said referring to four members of Panday Sining who were taken by police into custody for vandalism.

“Manila’s walls have long been defaced by countless tarpaulins of politicians, symbols of street gangs, and giant billboards, but it is the political messages of these cultural activists are what the state is going after,” she added.

Manila’s Public Information Office (MPIO) earlier said that the city council had already approved a resolution stating that the youth group is no longer welcome in the city.

“Clearly, the real reason behind their arrest is the fact that they are activists who expose government corruption and violence,” Danday said.

The declaration came after members wrote messages against the supposed abuses by the military and police against activists and kedtist organizers in rural areas. The group spraypainted the messages on the walls of Lagusnilad, an underpass that connects the Manila City Hall to Intramuros. The Manila city government had just recently finished cleaning up the underpass.

The graffiti irked Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who had insisted that Panday Sining be made to pay for what its members did.

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Days after, four of members of the group were arrested near Recto Avenue for allegedly spray painting more graffiti. Anakbayan said those arrested were on their way home from a protest rally.

READ: 4 Panday Sining members nabbed for vandalism

READ: Youth group justifies street graffiti in Manila

Anakbayan also said Moreno’s reaction had similarities with the Duterte administration’s crackdown on the Left that had subjected activists, peasant organizers and clergy to arrests, detention and assassinations.

“Such a declaration has the fingerprints of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) all over it—the harassment and human rights violations against dissenters and progressive groups,” Danday claimed, referring to the multi-agency task force created to enforce Duterte’s order to end the insurgency by the end of his term in 2022.

“This harassment—the senseless persona non grata declaration; the gross violation of civil rights through illegal detention; these are all examples of human rights violations under the de facto martial law of the Duterte regime,” said Danday.

Edited by TSB
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TAGS: Alex Danday, Anakbayan, artists, graffiti, Isko Moreno, Manila, Panday Sining, persona non grata, Philippine news updates, vandalism
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