Cebu to write to OSG on legal opinion over pulpit panels

Max Limpag

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Cebu to write to OSG on legal opinion over pulpit panels

ART. The National Museum of the Philippines receives a series of early 19th-century panels depicting the founder of the Augustinian Order from private collectors Edwin and Aileen Bautista.

National Museum of the Philippines

The National Museum of the Philippines is also set to meet with Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma to discuss the issue of the pulpit panels

CEBU, Philippines – The Cebu provincial government will write to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to clarify its legal opinion on the pulpit panels from the heritage church of Boljoon in southern Cebu that are now with the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP).

NMP Board of Trustees Chair Andoni Aboitiz visited the Capitol on Friday afternoon, April 5, to meet with Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, who gave NMP officials until last week to meet with her.

In an interview after their meeting, Garcia said that she clarified with Aboitiz that apart from being religious items, the four panels are also part of Cebu’s cultural heritage and history. She said the NMP should also recognize that both the Capitol and the Boljoon Municipal Government, through their respective legislative bodies, called for the return of the panels.

Garcia said Aboitiz told her that although he was the board chair, “he cannot make the decision alone.” Action on the panels would need a decision by the entire board, which will meet in May.

NMP will meet with Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma in the mid-April to discuss the issue of the panels.

In the meantime, Garcia said she will write the OSG to clarify the legal opinion that they issued upon the request of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Garcia said that the way the NMP interpreted the OSG opinion made the National Museum think it was in their favor.

But she said the opinion was based “on a limited set of facts.” She pointed out the disclaimer in the OSG document, “In providing our comments in this communication, we have relied solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Thus, this comment may not apply to situations with different set of facts.”

Garcia told Rappler that she didn’t think the OSG had a copy of the deed of donation, which identified the panels as having come from the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima in Boljoon.

Garcia said the Province of Cebu “would write officially to the OSG given additional and the more complete facts, which would include (the deed of) donation, which for all the four said the provenance refers to Patrocinion de Maria, and of course the very, very clear letter of Archbishop Palma.”

After the issue on the panels broke out, Palma issued a statement calling for their return, saying their removal was not only unauthorized but constituted a sacrilege. Palma also said the panels were not works of arts for public display but instruments of evangelization.

In their legal opinion sent to NCCA Chair Victorino Manalo, the OSG said, “It is only when the fact of ownership, and the theft or robbery, are duly established that the Archdiocese of Cebu can demand for the return of the Panels.”

The OSG also listed four conditions that needed to be established before the NMP could be considered liable for fencing. In an interview with Rappler, NMP Director General Jeremy Barns said the conditions listed showed they were not liable. In a press conference at the Capitol, however, Cebu Provincial Government lawyers said the conditions indicate NMP liability on fencing. –

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