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MANILA, Philippines – Two members of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) have filed complaints against the artist behind the effigy of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that was set on fire to mark during a State of the Nation Address protest rally in July, claiming he violated environmental laws.
Based on the complaint-affidavit shared by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan president Renato Reyes on Wednesday, August 23, Police Staff Sergeant Mario Sembrano and Police Corporal Paolo Navarrol, both stationed at Anonas Police Station 9, filed the complaints against BAYAN resident artist Max Santiago and three John Does.
Reyes said they only knew about the complaint after receiving the subpoena on Wednesday from the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office.
The complaint was for alleged violation of section 48, paragraph 3, of the Republic Act (RA) No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. The police said the law prohibits the burning of solid waste in open space.
The police also alleged that Santiago and his unnamed companions violated RA No. 8749 or the Clean Air Act.
The preliminary investigation has been set on September 5 and 12.
In explaining why they filed the complaints, the cops claimed that the burning of the Marcos “Doble Kara (Two-faced)” effigy was a “deliberate disrespect” to Marcos and the country. The burning of the effigy “greatly contributed to air pollution which grossly negates the government program in ensuring the protection of public health and the environment,” the police added.
Reyes said in his post on X that the police nor the government cannot regulate the content of protests because the freedom of speech enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
“But that’s exactly what the PNP did when it charged Bayan’s artists for the effigy burning which it said was ‘blatant disrespect’ to the President,” Reyes said.
He also noted that the use of environmental laws was meant to justify “suppression of free speech,” adding that the filing of complaints against Santiago is a dangerous precedent that needs to be opposed.
“Ngayon lang ginawa ito. Madami nang effigy ang sinunog noon sa protesta (This only happened now. Many effigies had been burned down during protests),” Reyes said.
BAYAN secretary-general Raymond Palatino said in a statement that authorities are misusing the law to criminalize the freedom of expression.
“We will challenge this harassment suit since it could set a dangerous precedent. We will not allow the police to dictate what forms of expression can be done in exercising our right to dissent. We will issue statement and next plan of action after consulting with artists and lawyers,” Palatino said.
Burning of effigies, especially of the incumbent president, has been a regular fixture in big rallies in the country, especially during anti-SONA and Labor Day rallies, but no complaints were ever filed against the people behind the acts then. – Rappler.com