Karapatan questions continued illegal detention of Panday Sining activists, lambasts Año for inciting attacks against the youth

"Suddenly, with avid attention and desperation from government officials, it seems that vandalism has become the worst crime in the world. So unforgivable that the youth who write scribbles of protests and criticisms through this form are criminalized akin to those who have committed heinous crimes. Panday Sining members continue to be in detention while government officials like Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Eduardo Año, who hark at every opportunity to demonize activists, use this incident to incite more attacks against the youth," said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay. 

"Surprisingly however, no government officials seem surprised at the fact that the three Panday Sining members remain in detention even without a case filed against them. Año and the others seem unconcerned that the police, with no uniforms, manhandled and even physically assaulted the youth. There are so many irregularities that officials like Año seem to gloss over, seemingly overjoyed at the fact that they have bullied and manhandled artists who used paint as a form of protest," added Palabay. 

Last November 30, after a protest commemorating Andres Bonifacio and his revolutionary life, four Panday Sining artists were arbitrarily arrested by the Manila Police Department. The four victims, which included a minor, were manhandled by out-of-uniform policemen who apprehended them and took them to the police station. The Panday Sining members were beaten and continue to remain in detention, even without charges filed against them, except for one who was released earlier this week. This follows the threats from Manila mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso to have members of Panday Sining arrested for violating a city ordinance on vandalism.

"It is ludicrous how the police are now watching with eagle eyes at every protest, determined to make an arrest. How easy it is to target the youth when the own ranks of the police are littered with ninjas who paste posters that red-tag organizations, plant evidence, kill poor Filipinos, and recycle drugs. Año is claiming that the arrest of the Panday Sining members is "just and lawful," but there is nothing just nor lawful about the manner of their arrest and their continued detention. The gravity with which this is being treated is far from the weight of the offense. If we're going to talk about upholding the law, the DILG is merely exhibiting its hypocrisy by having its priorities misplaced in pouring the police's efforts to go after activists and critics," Palabay explained.

The Karapatan official continued that "political graffiti, as a form of protest exists as a manifestation and critique of the failures of legal means of redress, of the government turning a blind eye -- if not altogether silencing -- the people's just demands. Karapatan demands the immediate and unconditional release of the cultural workers and artists from Panday Sining. Instead of covering up the voices of artists and activists, the government should listen and address the people's legitimate calls for justice and accountability."