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The arrest of Panday Sining’s art activists should scare us

People argued over whether street and graffiti art valid forms of protests last month. But right now, it’s undeniable that there is something off with how the four cultural workers from Panday Sining were detained. 

As the country commemorated Andres Bonifacio’s birthday (a Filipino revolutionary), four members of Panday Sining were arrested by the Manila Police Department (MPD). They were allegedly riding a jeepney when they were manhandled and beaten by out-of-uniform police officers. One of them was a minor. The other member were Jeanne Vaughn Quijano, 24; Joven Laura, 24; and Mikhail Collado, 18.

Read more: #SCOUTRoundTable: Should protest graffiti be removed?

“We demand the release of these people’s artists. We demand an end to the Duterte regime’s tyranny amid the people’s just demands,” said Panday Sining in their press statement. According to the police, they were apprehended by the MPD’s District Intelligence Division as they spray-painted messages to end political repression against activists on Light Rail Transit (LRT) – Recto station.

Our policemen have a colorful history of power tripping. From innocent gig-goers who wanted to support farmers to student activists who are exercising free speech, the police can go to extreme measures to protect what they think is right. They are not above power-tripping.

Don’t believe us? Go back to the time when they ran over anti-U.S. activists with a police vehicle. They were never above using brutal force. And they exhibited that yet again with Panday Sining’s members.

Read more: Urban artists on street tagging, “spraycations,” and their community

Whatever you think of graffiti or street art, what the police officers did was questionable. They had no warrant of arrest, out of uniform, and injured a minor. Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised Rule of Court states “the officer arresting a person who has just committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense must have personal knowledge of the fact. The offense must also be committed to is presence or within his view.”

“I have already called on you not to do it again, but you still did it. Now you have to face the consequences of violating the law,” tweeted Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. What about these police officers who violated the law? Should they be manhandled as well?

Read more: Barely illegal: Street art has copyright too

During the eve of the group’s arrest, a tweet surfaced: “If [Banksy] is a Filipino, he might end up in jail for having a fascist government.” People can debate whether graffiti or street art is a form of art (newsflash, it
is a form of art), but what isn’t up for debate is whether or not policemen can powertrip as they please.

Photo from Inquirer.net

Rogin Losa
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