Artists blast PDI over Pugad Baboy controversy

Posted at 06/09/13 7:49 PM

Pol Medina

MANILA, Philippines -- The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) criticized the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) over what it calls the “censorship” of the comic strip Pugad Baboy, which led to the resignation of cartoonist Pol Medina Jr. from the newspaper.

In a statement posted on the group’s website on Saturday night, the CAP said it “lamented” Medina’s resignation, following the newspaper's suspension of the artist's long-running comic strip.

“Medina's resignation is an unfortunate development. The PDI's suspension and censorship of Pugad Baboy is a threat to freedom of expression. This can set a dangerous precedent for other publications and media institutions under similar situations,” visual artist and CAP spokesperson Renan Ortiz said in the statement.

“It even contradicts the PDI's legacy of asserting the right to freedom of speech and expression under increasing political repression under the term of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In fact, no less that its publishers and editorial board were sued for libel by former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo back in 2007 for publishing articles about electoral fraud,” Ortiz added.

Last week, the PDI announced it will not publish further editions of Pugad Baboy pending further investigation on the comic strip's June 4 print.

In its apology to St. Scholastica's College, which was mentioned in the controversial strip, the newspaper explained that the cartoon had already been rejected for its insensitivity, but was published due to a "mix-up in the comics section."

In the controversial strip, one character mused how Catholics are hypocrites for being homophobic. Another character then insinuated that beautiful students and some nuns of St. Scholastica's College are lesbians.

Addressing the publication of the "Pugad Baboy" strip, St. Scholastica's College president Sister Mary Thomas Prado threatened to sue PDI unless an inquiry is launched.

Medina sent his letter of resignation to the local newspaper on Friday.

In its statement, National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, chairman of the CAP board of directors, said the newspaper “ought to have spoken up for the artist instead of panicking and disowning" Medina.

“Medina's strip was directed in general at what he calls the hypocrisy of Catholic institutions that condemn homosexuality and discriminate against lesbians and gays. St. Scholastica's College was cited only to give an example but is not the exclusive subject of the criticism,” Lumbera said as quoted in the CAP website.

“As an artist, Pol Medina does not deserve to be singled out for something that was partly beyond his control. The responsibility for the offending strip goes beyond the individual artist in this case, but is also the result of interrelated factors, including editorial oversight,” Ortiz added.

Ortiz then lauded Pugad Baboy, which has been running since 1988, for its satire and relevant social commentary, including “critique against the Marcos dictatorship and other important issues.”

The CAP, which was organized in 1983 to unite Filipino artists against Marcos, is an organization of writers, artists and cultural workers “committed to the principles of freedom, justice and democracy.”