Four members of the activist group Panday Sining (“Blacksmith Art”) — the group behind the high-profile vandalizing of the newly renovated Lagusnilad underpass with anti-government slogans — were arrested by Manila police on Saturday afternoon while they were attending a protest rally.
Three of the suspects have been identified as Jeanne Vaughn Quijano, 24; Joven Laura, 24; and Mikhail Collado, 18. One suspect was not identified because he is a minor.
The police alleged that they caught the artists as they were spray-painting political slogans on the columns of the Light Rail Transit on Manila’s Recto Avenue, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports. The police also accused the activists of trying to resist arrest by pushing the arresting officers.
However, in a statement posted on Panday Sining’s Facebook page on Saturday, the group maintained that the four “were abducted by police in civilian clothing while riding a jeepney around the vicinity of Mendiola after the successful Bonifacio Day protests by workers and youth.”
The group said that the suspects were “manhandled and beaten while being dragged outside the jeepney.”
In a follow-up statement released last night, Panday Sining said it is asking all artists and activists “to help in the campaign to immediately release the members of Panday Sining who were arbitrarily arrested last November 30 by state forces.” It added that it was raising money for bail to get the four artists out of jail.
Meanwhile, the group’s nemesis, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, suggested there would be no mercy in a statement of his own that appeared on his Facebook page on Sunday.
“You were warned. I have asked you to not vandalize again. But you repeated it. You have tested the law and leadership of Manila,” he said in Filipino. “You have to face the law.”
Last month, Moreno had threatened to make the activists lick the graffiti from Lagusnilad’s walls should he catch them.
The pedestrian tunnel underwent a thorough renovation from July to October to give Manileños more space to walk from City Hall to Intramuros, and vice versa. In addition to giving the underpass a fresh coat of paint, authorities also kicked out several vendors that had set up shop inside, many of whom reportedly did not pay their taxes.
A few days after the newly painted tunnel reopened, however, the walls were sprayed with anti-government slogans — an action for which Panday Sining claimed responsibility. The high-profile graffiti prompted a lot of tough talk from the government on vandalism, and an annoyed Moreno — well known for his love of the limelight — even personally (and unsuccessfully) scrubbed graffiti off a telecom equipment box in front of the media to show how onerous the problem was.