Around three months ago, the National Press Club commissioned us to do an 8×32-foot mural on the history of press freedom in the Philippines. A lot of problems were encountered during the production phase mainly because of the delays in the schedule of payment on their part, as stipulated in the contract we signed.
Still, through the commitment and dedication shown by the members of our group, the mural was completed in time for the unveiling scheduled on October 26. Finally, we would be able to sleep a lot more easily.
Or so we thought.
We were shocked to be informed by one of their board of directors that changes were made in the mural without our knowledge.
We, the Neo-Angono Artists Collective, would like to express our outrage, revulsion and protest against the total lack of respect of the NPC for the integrity of the commissioned artwork, as shown by the slipshod alterations they caused in several parts of the said mural, to wit:
1) The erasure of a big portion of the newspaper held by the central figure, containing the statement of the International Federation of Journalists regarding the perceived effects of the anti-terror law on press freedom, and replaced by a hideous bird-monster in a cage;
2) The alteration of the headline of the newspaper Jose Rizal is holding from “Press Freedom Fighter’s Son Abducted” to “Press Freedom Fight Is On” and the defacement of Jonas and Edith Burgos’s pictures as well as the erasure of Jonas’s name;
3) The change of the tattoo on Andres Bonifacio’s left arm from the alibata “K” to a sappy red heart pierced by an arrow;
4) The erasure of the name of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines from the banners of the rallyists;
5) The lengthening of the hair and beard of the figure identified as academician-columnist Prof. Randy David beside columnist Conrad de Quiros;
6) The addition of beard and mustache and the change of hair color from white to black of the pugo and balut vendor identified as columnist and Martial Law detainee Juan Mercado.
We believe that the above-mentioned alterations were made by some unidentified artist/s with the authorization and consent of the NPC leadership (even with their disavowal of responsibility, considering that the mural was within their premises). We rail against these modifications not only because of the slipshod work and poor artistry but more so because of the censorship that is clearly at work here.
Isn’t it ironic that an institution such as the NPC would cause the censorship of a work that they themselves commissioned purportedly to promote press freedom? Isn’t the freedom of expression of the artist bound up with the very press freedom that they supposedly uphold? Aren’t these alterations a clear violation of the rights of authors/artists protected by the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines?
We call on our fellow artists, journalists, writers, and citizens to support us in this move to defend not only our artistic, but also our civic rights. We will highly appreciate it if you could send a short statement of support for our cause. Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
To view the mural in its original state, please visit www.neo-angono.com. You may also visit the actual bastardized mural at the Headline Restaurant at the 4th floor of the NPC building.
Uphold press freedom and artistic expression!
– The Neo-Angono Artists Collective, October 31, 2007