Legal bytes: Murals of hope
Murals bring art into the public sphere which can be relatively effective tools of attracting attention to social issues.
Mural painters can also be target of harassments, Several men in Las Piñas City were caught on video last Sunday, March 13, 2022 whitewashing over a mural supporting presidential candidate Leni Robredo.
Young artists from the volunteer group Youth for Leni Las Piñeros commenced the mural painting on Saturday morning, March 12, 2022, on a vacant lot along Padre Diego Cera Avenue corner C5 Extensión.
The property is owned by the family of independent Las Piñas mayoral candidate Benjamin Gonzales. The property is just a kilometer away from The Tent at Vista Global South, venue of Uniteam’s rally scheduled on the next day, March 13, 2022.
The security guards of the nearby commercial property approached the young artists and continuously harassed them Saturday by saying that the mural is illegal and they should stop.
Gonzales, already appeared in the area Saturday equipped with his copy of title to the property. However, the defacement proceeded a day later, Sunday, despite his pronouncement that he gave his permission on the mural. The affiliation of the men who whitewashed the wall is still undetermined.
But there was another video that surfaced where one of the man, who was also wearing an orange shirt showing a senatorial candidate, shouted “di kasi kayo nagpaalam kay (name of politician).”
Another mural defacement occurred last February 12 on a privately-owned wall in Barangay Ipil in Echague, Isabela by uniformed personnel pursuant to the Comelec’s “Operation Baklas” campaign. Authorities proceeded to paint over the artwork despite the protestation of the property owner. The volunteers then repainted the wall in pink but this was again vandalized.
The artists repainted the mural on March 11, with the intention of leaving the last pink rose for Robredo and vice presidential candidate Kiko Pangilinan to draw and paint.
Comelec Commissioner James Jimenez admitted in an interview that murals were not mentioned in the Comelec guidelines mandating the size of campaign materials.
Comelec has stopped removing campaign materials posted on private property after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on “Oplan Baklas.”
Comelec Resolution No. 10730 provides guidelines for posting campaign materials, including common poster areas and the measurement of campaign paraphernalia.
The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on “Oplan Baklas” a week after supporters of presidential candidate and Vice President Leni Robredo petitioned the court to stop the operations.
The petitioners sought the issuance of a TRO, while the resolution of the petition is pending, prohibiting the Comelec from implementing Section 21 (o), Section 24, and Section 26 of Resolution No. 10730 with respect to the poll body’s order to dismantle, remove, destroy, deface, and/or confiscate all election materials that are privately owned and privately funded solely by volunteers and private citizens and posted and/or installed within their private properties.”
One point raised was that the taking down oversized campaign posters in private properties was a violation of the constitutional right to free expression, among others.
In an earlier statement, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said that “there can be no meaningful exercise of the right to suffrage if the people’s basic and essential freedoms are unduly restrained and disregarded in the name of equal opportunity for all candidates.” Censorship is like poison gas: a powerful weapon that can harm you when the wind shifts.
It is the government’s obligation to ensure freedom of ‘political’ expression which is more important than ever during an election period.
The censoring of artistic expression containing ‘political’ content during an election period by whatever entity, whether government or private, is highly questionable from a legal perspective.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in any free society and artistic freedom must be afforded the highest protection. The role of the artist in challenging power is the very lifeblood of our cultural life.
Defacing the mural was an act of cowardice and insecurity to the efforts of the youth but it will only further ignite the dedication on the campaign to educate electorate to vote wisely.
(Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)
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