March 25, 2023

Twelve years ago, the city council passed the Anti-Graffiti Code of Baguio in a bid to penalize the deliberate defacing of public or private properties through graffiti in the city. It was also a response to the unabated problem on vandalism supposedly committed by “frat” members.
During the span of that time, there continued to be reports of vandalism in various parts of the city, notwithstanding the presence of a policy that imposes punishment to those found guilty of violating the ordinance.
The ordinance restricts access to graffiti implements to discourage the sale, giving out, exchanging or loaning of these implements especially to minors. Penalties consist of fines ranging from P1,000 to P5,000 and imprisonment from one to 10 days for the first offense; 11 to 20 days on second offense; and 21 to 30 days for third offense.
Yet, vandalism through graffiti continues and the culprits go unpunished over the past years.
Last year, the newly-painted overpasses of Baguio and of late, the mural made by a Baguio-based artist whose work was commissioned by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts were vandalized through graffiti.
The damage done on the latter gained public condemnation foremost on social media, but there was not much of a reaction for the former. But regardless of which got the more attention, the point is the deliberate destruction of a property whether government or private-owned is disrespect to the efforts put into designing these structures.
The effort and time put from conceptualizing the design to making an edifice pleasing to the eyes and the amount of money put to waste by callous and irresponsible people deserve not only condemnation but also the punishment spelled out in the ordinance.
It’s about time we stop treating those who destroy properties with kid gloves.
Three years ago, the legislative tracking division of the city council has suggested there should be more teeth in the implementation of the Anti-Graffiti Code to make it effective. Among the recommended amendments to the ordinance are for the Permits and Licensing Division to strictly require the posting of anti-graffiti signages in retail stores selling graffiti implements; for barangays to allot funds for the installation of additional CCTV surveillance cameras for monitoring; and for violators to repaint vandalized areas at their own expense.
We have yet to see and feel if city establishments are strictly screening those who buy graffiti implements; and if violators were made to restore and shoulder the costs at their own expense. If those who caused the destruction are not able to afford the costs, should they not be held accountable as spelled out in the ordinance?
Those who became victims should not hesitate and file charges if necessary. We understand that litigation takes time, effort, money, and will only clog court dockets, but one has to learn their lessons the hard way if only to drive a point that our local laws must be respected.
We digress from proposals to put-up “graffiti walls” to give an outlet to those who have artistic inclinations. The Baguio Creative Council, along with other stakeholders in the private sector had, and continues to reach out to those who might have treated the wrong path, but even “graffiti walls” are not spared from destruction. This only means that a change in approach might be explored.
Problems on vandalism can also be addressed by being proactive such as continuing education and information campaign about the Anti-Graffiti Code. The recent incident is a wake-up call to galvanize the campaign about the preservation and respect for the property and creation of others.
This also brings us to the long-time clamor of barangays that there should be a standard pay for police auxiliary forces. CCTV surveillance cameras are for monitoring purposes only, but the constant presence of police auxiliary or barangay tanods will help deter the commission of such misdemeanor.
In a city that has become second home to many artists, one form of support we can give them is to respect and admire their creativity. After all, it is their creativity that helped put Baguio in the list of creative cities in the world.