Cebu Capitol to file case vs National Museum officials over ‘stolen’ church panels

Max Limpag

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Cebu Capitol to file case vs National Museum officials over ‘stolen’ church panels

HISTORY. The controversial early 19th-century panels depicting the founder of the Augustinian Order displayed at the National Museum of the Philippines.

National Museum of the Philippines

The provincial board authorizes Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia to sue National Museum officials and anyone who kept the pulpit panels that were allegedly stolen from a heritage church

CEBU, Philippines – The Cebu provincial government is preparing a case against officials of the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) on the issue concerning four pulpit panels that were allegedly stolen from the heritage church of Boljoon in southern Cebu.

The provincial board approved via a unanimous vote in its regular session on Monday afternoon, April 1, the authorization for Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to file the “appropriate case” against NMP officials and “any person who kept the said panels after it was stolen.”

The resolution said the NMP officials refused to return the objects to the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima Church in Boljoon.

There is no information yet on the nature of the case and how many will be filed but sources indicated that the Capitol will be holding a press conference to share more details.

The resolution introduced by Board Member Andrei Duterte said Governor Garcia sent a letter to the NMP on February 26, “urgently requesting for the return” of the panels. The NMP never responded to that letter, according to the resolution.

Officials of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) led by Chairman Ino Manalo met with Governor Garcia at the Capitol on March 13. Jose Eleazar Bersales, the provincial government’s consultant on museums and heritage, told Garcia during that meeting there was a commitment to return the panels.

Manalo, however, told Garcia that the final decision will be made by the NMP.

NMP Board of Trustees Chairman Andoni Aboitiz is scheduled to meet with Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma in the middle of April to discuss the panels.

Aboitiz, who met with Governor Garcia on February 27 at the Capitol, told Rappler they wanted to look into how the panels were lost from the church and ended up in the hands of private collectors Edwin and Aileen Bautista.

The Bautistas donated the panels to NMP, and its exhibition as a “Gift to the Nation” triggered appeals from local officials to have the the items returned to Boljoon.

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Panels stolen from Cebu church surface in National Museum; Cebuanos want them back

Garcia told NCCA officials during the March 13 meeting that the panels were stolen because they belong to the church.

“So any stolen item, even though years may have passed and these are eventually officially donated, are still stolen items,” she said.

Archbishop Palma also asserted those were not works of art but sacred objects of the church. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    I appreciate this action by the Provincial Government of Cebu under the leadership of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia. The appropriate case should be filed against buyers of stolen artwork to discourage future buyers of similar items.

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