Artists’ group protests over Pugad Baboy’s ban, cartoonist ouster from Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Apolonio "Pol" Medina, Jr., cartoonist and creator of Pugad Baboy, a black-and-white comic strip first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on May 18, 1988.
Apolonio “Pol” Medina, Jr., cartoonist and creator of Pugad Baboy, a black-and-white comic strip first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on May 18, 1988.

By Joey Natividad
Special Correspondent

NAGA CITY, 11June2013 (BicolToday.com) – Comics can become a powerful tool in arousing and provoking a critical public opinion. And, St. Scholastica’s College in Manila had found it unbearable when given a dose of nasty social commentary. But, the axe fell on the comics strip and the cartoonist.

This happened to popular Inquirer’s comic strip, Pugad Baboy, which was stricken out from publication, and its author, Pol Medina, who was forced to resign from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI).

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), an artists’ group, has thrown its support for beleaguered artist-cartoonist Medina for getting sacked by the Inquirer, this was learned by BicolToday.com on Tuesday.

CAP lamented the resignation of famed Filipino cartoonist Pol Medina Jr. from the Inquirer, following the latter’s suspension of Medina’s Pugad Baboy comic strip from its pages.

“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.

CAP cited the famed reputation of PDI in fighting for press freedom during the days of repressive measures by then President Gloria Arroyo.

As a comic strip, Pugad Baboy did not deserve to be suspended on such grounds. For 20 years since 1988, it has served not only as a source of humor, but also satire and relevant social commentary, such as critique against the Marcos dictatorship and other important issues, said Ortiz.

“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.

Pugad Baboy, one of the longest-running comic strips in mainstream media, was last week pulled out by PDI’s top brass after one strip, rejected for publication, inadvertently came out in its June 4 issue.

The strip mentioned Catholic school St. Scholastica’s College in light of discussing Christian hypocrisy over the issue of homosexuality. The PDI suspended Medina after the school threatened to file a lawsuit. While Medina has publicly apologized for his treatment of the subject, the PDI has decided to pull out the entire comic strip series pending the results of an internal investigation, said CAP in a statement.

As the long-time venue of Pugad Baboy, the PDI ought to have spoken up for the artist instead of panicking and disowning the artist, said National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, Chair of the Board of Directors of CAP.

“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 noted.

Pol Medina, as an artist, 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 inter-related factors, including editorial oversight, Ortiz explained in the statement.

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) is an organization of writers, artists and cultural workers committed to the principles of freedom, justice and democracy. It was founded in 1983 to unite Filipino artists against the dictatorial regime of then President Ferdinand Marcos who imposed repressive laws that curtailed freedom of expression. [BicolToday.com]

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