Manila Mayor Isko Moreno learned firsthand today that tackling graffiti isn’t as easy as it might seem at first blush.
Moreno today — press pack in tow, naturally — rolled up his proverbial sleeves today to personally scrub graffiti from a telecom equipment box located near the Manila City Hall, only to find that even after a dousing with paint thinner and five minutes of vigorous wiping, the white-lettered “CLIFF261” remained stubbornly visible. (Curse you, CLIFF261!)
“Look at how hard it is [to remove]. Is this what you want the government to do? Is this what you want us to become busy with?” shouted Moreno, an ex-actor well known for his love of photo ops. “Instead of us spending our time giving you free housing? Instead of spending time looking for jobs for you? This is how difficult this is. Look!”
“Are you happy? Do you derive pleasure from this? Is this art?”
The well-publicized wipe-down came after Moreno’s administration lashed out at activists who similarly graffitied the newly renovated Lagusnilad pedestrian underpass last week, prompting the government to vow to take a harder line with vandals.
The garish anti-government slogans on the tunnel’s freshly painted walls were the work of youth activist group Panday Sining (“Blacksmith Art”), which tagged Lagusnilad mere days after its much-vaunted refurbishment. Panday Sining has said the slogans were their way of protesting against the injustices committed by the Duterte government, the United States, and China, while Anakbayan (“Child of the Country”), a group affiliated with Panday Sining, defended the vandalism as an art form.
Panday Sining has since apologized, but that didn’t stop the Department of Interior and Local Government from instructing all mayors in the country to arrest vandals in light of what happened.
Enter our old pal Isko Moreno and his handy jug of turpentine.
Moreno told reporters today that cleaning up graffiti would divert the Manila government’s resources from worthier causes.
“Look, even if you put thinner on it, it won’t be erased. Now, if I send 500 of the government’s employees [to clean this], we will use thinner bought by the government, we will pay for that using taxpayer’s money,” he said.
“So what will we do next? We will paint over it. The money that was used to buy paint, we could have bought paracetamol, amoxicillin. So will we just use that here? Should I give your art to treat the ones who are sick? Instead of buying nails and cement for housing, I’ll just use the money to remove this?”
“Did I stop them from exercising their rights?” an agitated Moreno asked, referring to Panday Sining. “No. They are free [to express their ideas] in Manila. But you have no right to make Manila look disgusting. There are many ways to speak up against the government, but this is wrong.”
Having supposedly proven his point, Moreno abandoned his fruitless efforts to clean the vandalized telecom box, turning it over to City Hall employees, who covered it with gray paint.
Hey Mayor Isko, allow us to suggest this much easier, and more effective, way of dealing with graffiti, straight out of the handbook of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Do you think Mayor Moreno has a point? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.