Artists are taxpayers too

Published January 15, 2022, 11:03 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Consumer rights group stages exhibit by pandemic-hit artists

FOOD FOR THOUGHT Artificial Flavor by Geronimo Santos
We are bombarded with products that promise instant gratification but most of them are made of artificial ingredients deceive customers.

Contemporary visual artists who have been mostly affected by the pandemic have taken to art to bring attention to their plight and advocacies and inspire people to act collectively and spark change.

Consumer rights group Rights Action Philippines (RAP) goes the art route to stage “Consumer Rights in the State of Pandemic,” an online exhibit, featuring over 80 works, via RAP’s website, and FB page rights action philippines and The physical show is to be mounted from Feb. 10 to Mar. 10, at M Gallery 2131 Taft Avenue, Pasay City.

Harvest by MJ De Jesus
The artwork portrays the hard work of our rice farmers in broad daylight.

Started in 2019 but formally organized this year, RAP prioritizes “gut issues that directly affect people’s rights, targeting causes such as better education, improved transportation, affordable housing, fuel, and basic goods and services, and efficient and corruption-free bureaucracy and clean environment.”

RAP chairman Rey Dulay says they started organizing upon noticing there is a lack in groups who speak for the ordinary consumers and their everyday issues. Coincidentally, most of RAP members are artists who need an outlet to voice out their plight and their opinion on consumer rights.

Munting Nakayanan by Romualdo Caliñgo
Fish, a poor man’s meal, now compares to beef and pork in price, sometimes even higher.

“Our goal is to generate awareness, understanding, and protection of consumer interests and rights from an artist’s perspective,’’ says Dulay. “This is also our unique way of giving artists a platform at a time when the visual arts sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Through this initiative, the multi-sectoral organization aims to address the information gap and understanding of various consumer issues and encourage people to act and make a stand in protecting and fighting for their rights that are otherwise overlooked, violated, or ignored.

Serenity by Nick Dulay
Smoking is a taxpayer’s way to release stress and ease the burdens of life.

Among the participating artists are Geronimo Santos, Romualdo Caliñgo, Rembrandt Vocalan, Dyna Quizon Ondoy, Matthius Garcia, MJ De Jesus, Pol Mesina, Rey Dulay, Lauren Jascha Tolentino, and Nick Dulay.

Vocalan’s Basic Commodities, for instance, depicts three items—cigar, red floor wax, and beer—described as “products that are always bought and found at sari-sari stores and perceived to have negative impact on the health and lifestyle of consumers.”

Usok sa Dilim by Matthius B. Garcia
A man’s vice consumed in a dark corner or spot.

Dulay’s artwork entitled Free Our Mind! It’s Our Choice, We are not Criminals! shows a man smoking a cigarette. “Oftentimes they are taken for granted making them the government’s milking cows for much-needed taxes,” Dulay explains.

Veggie Stall by Dyna Quizon Ondoy
The artist’s depiction of his favorite part of the market – vegetable stalls full of colorful produce.

Congress special committee chair on creative industries and performing arts Rep. Christopher V.P. De Venecia lauded the initiatives of RAP for empowering artists and promoting awareness and understanding of Philippine consumer rights.

People’s rights, particularly consumer rights, should be defended, and the people need the voice to champion their causes. —Toff de Venecia

“People’s rights, particularly consumer rights, should be defended, and the people need the voice to  

Basic Commodities by Rembrandt Vocalan
Basic products sold in sari-sari stores have negative impact on health and lifestyle of consumers.

champion their causes,” De Venecia said. “I take pride in the advocacies emanating from Right Action Philippines because it aligns with my own advocacies for the arts and culture, as well as the creative industries and I am more than convinced that this virtual exhibit will not only increase consumer rights awareness but also highlight the talent of our Filipino artists.”

To coincide with the art exhibit, RAP is conducting an online learning series to highlight various concerns such as legal rights of consumers, consumers movements around the world (benchmarking on best practices), case studies on successful consumer rights cases, and unfair practices in the art world. These can be accessed through RAP’s Spotify channel.

Free Our Mind! It’s Our Choice, We Are Not Criminals! by Rey Dulay
Smokers are taxpayers and contributors to our country’s development through taxes, and their rights should not be taken for granted.

“We believe that people should be supported in the exercise of their rights and freedoms, which should result in better living conditions and enable them to function as more productive individuals. RAP will be the voice to champion their causes,” says Dulay.

Among advocacies RAP is targeting are consumer rights, commuter rights, the rights of smokers and vapers, artists’ rights, and the rights of taxpayers.