Effigy is art, not waste, says artist behind ‘Doble Kara’

Max Santiago with the supporters outside the Quezon City Regional Trial Court. (Photo by Bulatlat) 


MANILA — A visual artist and cultural worker stressed that environmental laws banning the burning of solid waste do not apply when the effigy of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. titled “Doble Kara” was burned during the State of the Nation Address protest back around two months ago.

“This case is not just about me, but also about free expression,” Max Santiago said during the protest action in front of the Quezon City Hall of Justice.

Read: ‘Charges vs. effigy artist, an attack against free expression’ – artists, progressives
Read: The making of the ‘Doble Kara’ effigy

Santiago was charged with violating Section 48, Paragraph 3 of Republic Act No. (RA) 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act), as well as violation of RA 8749 (Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999).

He was assisted by human rights lawyer Antonio La Viña before the Quezon City prosecutor on Sept. 5 for the preliminary investigation of the charges filed against him.

Effigy is art

According to Santiago’s legal counsel, the Joint Complaint-Affidavit filed by Quezon City Police Districtrict (QCPD) PSSg. Mario T. Sembrano and PCpl. Paolo A. Navarro against Santiago and three John Does last August 7 failed to specify the provisions of the Philippine Clean Air Act that was supposedly violated on July 24.

Santiago’s legal team said that effigy burning is not considered “solid waste” burning under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and the Clean Air Act.

The Solid Waste Act defines “solid waste” as various forms of discarded materials, including household waste, commercial waste, non-hazardous institutional and industrial waste. The categories of ‘waste’ outlined in the Philippine Clean Air Act also do not apply since the effigy is a meticulously crafted piece of art.

Santiago, in his affidavit, said that the complaint failed to establish that there is “reasonable certainty of conviction” for the accused crimes that he allegedly committed, including the location where the offenses were allegedly committed.

The lack of clarity on the place where the crimes occurred creates uncertainty about the jurisdiction of the prosecuting office over the charges, his affidavit stated.

A form of free expression

Santiago’s legal team also argued against the police’s claim that the act was a “deliberate disrespect to the president and the country,” and stated that the symbolic effigy burning must be viewed as an expressive conduct of freedom of speech and expression, as it was guaranteed under the Philippine Constitution.

Bulatlat also stood in solidarity with Santiago who has been contributing editorial cartoons for the media outfit. “His (Santiago) works are anchored on the truth, and as such, also serve as a weapon against disinformation and all forms of lies. Only those who are afraid of the truth wish to discredit Max’s works,” Bulatlat in a statement.

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) stressed that the QCPD’s legal action is a clear harassment and a blatant impingement on our freedom of expression. “Effigies are a popular form of protest art in the Philippines that often render satirical portraits of figures in power and are built to be burned at the end of a protest.”

“Challenging this suit and condemning such action from the QCPD is necessary to keep the state’s armed forces from dictating how we practice our freedom of expression and set a precedent– especially for artworks that are anchored towards the current administration and the system,” CAP said. (JJE, DAA) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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