An art collective denounced the allegations of a military commander who said that they are a legal front for bomb-making amid the string of deaths of human rights defenders in the country.
In an interview with ANC on Wednesday, August 25, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Southern Luzon Command, named a large artist organization called Panday Sining as among the people allegedly talking about making bombs online.
Parlade was initially talking about possible social media regulation after a meeting with the National Task Force to End Communist Insurgency where he claimed to have seen people making bombs online.
When reporter Karen Davila asked him to identify these people, Parlade alleged that these are the members of Panday Sining and called them “a legal front” organization.
“It’s a group of artists. It’s a legal front organization,” he said.
Parlade then explained that they called it “legal front” because it is legally registered but the supposed illegal activities ran “underground.”
“It’s a legal organization, that’s what Sen. Hontiveros was trying to tell me, the last time she checked all these organizations we mentioned are legal organizations,” he said.
“Of course, they’re legal. That’s why they’re called front organizations. Legally, that’s their front but the illegal part of what they’re doing is, of course, they do it somewhere else,” he added.
Parlade also said that they have gathered enough proofs of this such as screenshots and videos.
However, they could not arrest the members under the new Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 because there’s no implementing rules and regulations yet.
“You cannot just accost these people if they’re not, by using or invoking the anti-terror law if there’s no designation. And secondly, if they’re not prescribed as a terrorist organization.,” he said.
Panday Sining’s response
In a statement issued on the same day, Panday Sining denied Parlade’s accusations as baseless and deceptive.
Panday Sining is an artist collective of Filipino youth from different schools and communities all over the country. We…
“We deny the baseless accusations thrown to us by Lt. General Antonio Parlade,” the statement read.
“We vehemently condemn this irresponsible, deceptive statement from a person representing an institution which has a lot of blood on their hands after years of terrorizing the masses and violating their rights and liberties,” it added.
They also stressed that their present art campaign for better health response against the pandemic and safe, quality education for the youth is not terroristic in nature.
Panday Sining is the cultural arm of Anakbayan and has chapters in various schools and universities across the country.
Based on its profile, their goal is “to create art as a medium for progressive expressions of national democracy.”
The group’s name made headlines in 2019 after some of its members were arrested for vandalizing a portion of the wall the Lagusnilad Underpass in Manila.
Panday Sining owned up for what they did and called their activity as “protest art.”
Other Filipinos likewise criticized Parlade’s allegations as mere fabricated stories.
“You think little of us, Parlade. We don’t learn how to make bombs, but how to make art so explosive that it rouses the people to take action,” one user said.
“The way Panday Sining was red-tagged when all they’ve done was create amazing art,” another user said.
Series of killings of activists
The accusations against Panday Sining came just weeks after the killings of Anakpawis chairperson Randall Echanis and Negros-based activist Zara Alvarez this month.
Echanis and another man named Louie Tagapia were killed inside their apartment in Quezon City last August 10.
Local police also reportedly took his body and arrested a member of the paralegal team. His remains were only returned after a fingerprint match.
Alvarez, meanwhile, was gunned down in Bacolod City last August 17 by still unidentified perpetrators.
She is the 13th human rights worker of the human rights group Karapatan killed under the Duterte administration.
Agnes Callamard, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, joined the solidarity of calls to stop the killings of these human rights defenders in a Twitter thread on August 26.
“Zara is the most painful and saddest reminder as to why these demands must be answered. Every month that passes, every day that goes by, there is one more arbitrary killing, one more Zara, one more, one more, one more. ENOUGH,” Callamard wrote on Twitter.
Long thread on the human rights situation in the #Philippines. My heart cries out for #ZaraAlvarez, for her family, her friends, her colleagues, the people she served. WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR THESE KILLINGS TO STOP? HOW MUCH MORE SORROW, GRIEF, PAIN CAN THE PEOPLE ENDURE? pic.twitter.com/bsIH0qWEOO
— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) August 25, 2020
The Concerned Artists of the Philippines also demanded an independent probe to bring them justice.
“We support an independent investigation. We clamor for justice and an end to the killings. We decry how the Anti-Terror Law enables impunity,” the CAP said.