Groups condemned the Quezon City Police Department (QCPD) for filing charges against activist artist Max Santiago for alleged violations of environmental laws during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s last State of the Nation Address.
The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) said the charge against Santiago and others is a “harassment suit,” adding the emissions from the burnt effigy “are nothing compared to the criminal conduct and neglect of this administration.”
The police accused Santiago, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)’s resident artist, of violating the Ecological Waste Management Act (Republic Act9003) and the Clean Air Act (RA 8749) in connection with the burning of an effigy last July 24.
Three other “John Does” were charged along with Santiago.
In its complaint, the QCPD said the burning “greatly contributed to air pollution which grossly negates the government program in ensuring the protection of public health and the environment.”
The police added the effigy that showed a two-faced Marcos was a “deliberate disrespect to the President.”
CAP however said an effigy is an art form and not solid waste.
“It is not garbage or refuse,” CAP argued.
“It is hypocritical of the state to allege this when it cannot even address the problem of worsening traffic and its emissions, urban and industrial waste, and other government regulated practices that contribute to environmental destruction,” the group added.
CAP said the lawsuit is an attack on freedom of expression and the right of the people to redress and expression of grievance, particularly during a political event.
“Why expend public resources on this just to save face when the realities that the effigy reflects and expresses remain unaddressed?” CAP secretary general Lisa Ito said.
BAYAN meanwhile said it will contest the charges and defend Santiago.
“It should be noted that it is only under the presidency of Marcos Jr. that such a case was filed,” the group pointed out.
“Clearly this infringes on free speech. QCPD is ignorant of the law. It wants to regulate the content of the protests under the guise of enforcing an environmental law that is inapplicable in this situation,” BAYAN president Renato Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)