“Keep pushing, still. Us being silent, this is what they want. Let us deny them of that satisfaction. Push back. Organize. We work better as a team, as a collective.” – Tarantadong Kalbo
By MATTHEW PIRANTE-PEREZ
MANILA – Fellow cartoonists Tarantadong Kalbo, and Cartoonist Zach released new artworks denouncing the murder of artist Benharl Kahil.
Kahil, an artist known for his political commentary, was shot dead in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat over the weekend. He was also a teacher and art coordinator at the Lebak Legislated National High School.
Kevin Eric Raymundo, more popularly known as Tarantadong Kalbo, drew a skeletal hand placing a pencil beside a fountain pen inside a coffin. Zach’s work was a pencil broken into three pieces but sharpened on both ends, like a Hydra effect.
In an online interview with Bulatlat, Raymundo admitted the chilling effect caused by the incident.
“As a cartoonist whose content is political commentary, I am significantly affected by Kahil’s murder. I felt what people refer to as the chilling effect, at least for a brief moment. I couldn’t post anything, or even get myself to browse social media because it was triggering my anxiety,” he said.
— Tarantadong Kalbo (@KevinKalbo) November 7, 2022
Raymundo became popular with his Tumindig series, which was first released during the height of the pandemic.
Raymundo related that earlier this year, he received a threat during his first book signing. The mall owners were alerted that time, and beefed up the security during the event. He also added he’s taken steps to protect himself from becoming another target but also admitted this is limited to online protection.
“Aside from securing my privacy in all social media platforms, there’s not much I can do when I am out and about. I was briefed before by some folks at Facebook that exposing myself out there, like a personality, gives me a certain layer of protection, but I don’t think that is a guarantee given the recent turn of events so… I don’t know,” he said.
Despite the threat looming in the air, he refuses to back down. “Keep pushing, still. Us being silent, this is what they want. Let us deny them of that satisfaction. Push back. Organize. We work better as a team, as a collective,” he said.
He also advised fellow artists not to hesitate to ask for help. “Reach out to your community. If something happens to me *knocks on wood* use that to amplify out calls. Tuloy ang laban,” Raymundo said.
Cartoonist Zach mentioned that while there is no established link between the death and Kahil’s political stance, he believes the culture of impunity is worsening.
— Cartoonist ZACH (@cartoonistzach) November 7, 2022
Meanwhile, Jonathan de Santos, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also condemned the murder, “Editorial cartoonists, especially in the age of social media when there is intense competition for the public’s attention and trust, are a powerful force in the assertion of our freedom of expression.”
“The murder of Benharl Kahil is a tragic loss of life and, if found to be related to his cartoons and to the political positions that informed them, is also an assault on that freedom,” de Santos said.
According to the Movement Against Disinformation, Benharl had been red-tagged because of his editorial cartoons, and this again shows how this dangerous practice can easily go from online harassment to offline harm.
“We hope for a quick resolution of this case, justice for Benharl and an end to the culture of impunity in the Philippines,” Movement Against Disinformation said.
Kahil is the first cartoonist and the third critic to be killed under the Marcos Jr. administration, preceded by Percy Lapid, and Renato Blanco.