Artists Unite, Bid Goodbye to Arroyo


MANILA – Massive environmental degradation and landlessness of peasants in the country side are some of the issues that artist Jerry Matagsico witnessed. He united with other visual artists to bid goodbye to outgoing president Gloria Arroyo through their artwork. Matagsico said they did not have a hard time painting the people’s sentiments.

“Sending Arroyo to jail would mean justice to people who were victimized under this administration,” Matagsico told Bulatlat, citing victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, political prisoners, landless peasants, contractual workers, and students burdened by high tuition even in state colleges and universities.

Ugatlahi Artist Collective, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, Karatula and individual artists unveiled a mural 27 by 10 feet on June 29 in Mendiola, only a few paces from the Malacanang. It was hanged in the footbridge.

Matagsico said the mural truly reflects the sentiments of the people, citing his integration experiences in provinces as member of cultural groups as his inspiration. Like former president Joseph Estrada, Matagsico said Arroyo should also be sent to jail. “She even exceeded the atrocities in terms of human rights violations under the Marcos administration.”

Max Santiago, Ugatlahi vice president and spokesperson, said it took them four days to complete the mural. He shared that they initially planned to make a big mural but due to time constraints, the artist groups decided to make it smaller. But nonetheless, Santiago believes that the mural was still able to fulfill its purpose, which is to express the people’s desire to send Arroyo to jail.

(Photo by Ronalyn Olea /

The mural also reminds the Filipino people of the corruption cases, human rights violations and election fraud that hound the outgoing administration. The public was also reminded of the continuing and worsening poverty incidents and Arroyo’s loyalty to the United States of America.

Santiago said they exaggerated Arroyo’s facial features, such as her eyes, mole and buck teeth, as if they were about to pop out from her face to show that she is afraid of the people. He also noted that the white dove with the stethoscope represents the 43 health workers who are detained in Camp Bagong Diwa.

During the nine years that Arroyo was president, Santiago said, this is not the first time that artists made a collective effort to show their stand on various social issues. In fact, he said, culture and art blossom in times of political repression. “As members of society, the kind of social and political environment that we have would not only reflect in works of art but would also inspire artists to make one.”

One of their remarkable projects is Tutok Karapatan in 2006 that was participated in by over 200 artists as they condemned the extra-judicial killings at that time.

Only last April 16, Ugatlahi also held the art exhibit “Lunas” (literally means Solution), which was a fundraising event for the families of the Morong 43.

As a challenge to the incoming President Benigno Aquino III, Santiago said he should make sure that he would really be taking the straight path that he promised during the campaign period. “We are watching.” (

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