jeremy barns on torre de manila

02 September 2015

yesterday after the 6th hearing, the supreme court wrapped up oral arguments on GR. No. 213948  Knights of Rizal v. DMCI, Inc., and City of Manila, et al.  NCHP’s diokno and diokno had the last word, with some prompting from cj sereno and justices carpio and leonen in what seemed like a tag-team effort to belittle the rizal monument.  it was therefore a relief, nay, a comfort, to find on facebook, and to be allowed to share, this post by jeremy barns, director of the national museum.

Regarding the Torre de Manila case, I’m so dissatisfied with the questioning by the Supreme Court as to the mandates of the cultural agencies and the significance of the Rizal Monument, both today and in the last weeks…

Too much attention, I feel, has been given to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and its self-protecting position, where we, the National Museum (NM) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), who are depending on the Solicitor-General to represent us in the name of our wider Republic, seemed to be diminished and given little attention, dismissed by some of the justices as irrelevant or, at best, peripheral to the case at hand.

With all due respect to the Supreme Court, much more could have been done to excavate into the deep truth of the matter, which is obvious: our laws interpreting the exigencies and policies of the 1987 Constitution are ambiguous and our institutional arrangements among the cultural agencies a huge and overlapping mess. At least the quagmire that is the City of Manila was given due attention, but still, for all their evident failings, that’s not enough…

And for one justice to say, last week, that only the NHCP, in that justice’s view, has a valid mandate in this matter, and for the NHCP in turn to say, today, that we at the NM had the power to do something but, in their view, did nothing, without the NM having any opportunity to air its side, either directly or through the Solicitor-General, doesn’t seem fair at all…

At bottom, I really, really hated the fact that my colleague at the NHCP and counsel just went along with the disparagement by some of the justices of the Rizal Monument as being contrary to the wishes of Rizal himself, or the work of a Swiss foreigner (who was a distinguished sculptor in Europe in his time, never mind that Richard Kissling was himself a keen admirer of Rizal and that Switzerland was a nation that Rizal, a true internationalist and cosmopolitan, loved dearly) or being inaccurately placed away from where he was shot…

As if any of this matters! Why should this matter to us now when it mattered not at all to our forebears? The decision to build the monument was taken in response by Governor Taft in 1901 to the expressed desire of the Filipino people; and its construction, in terms of style and design and place, was openly taken by a duly constituted national committee of Filipinos, with not an American among them, and was only completed in 1913…

Hardly the hurried project of American imperial propaganda, but of deliberative national fundraising, promotion, competition, fabrication and installation… a model which we could well adopt in the erection of national monuments even now… hardly any of which in recent decades have received popular acclaim, let alone ownership and affection…

(See below for text of Public Act 243, approved on September 28, 1901)

And what this committee, which included Paciano Rizal, achieved, has undoubtedly been consequently sanctified by all the people and all the generations and all our national rituals since 1913. Upon its centennial in 2013, we took a hard look at all this history – yes HISTORY – which the NHCP seems now to belittle, as well as CULTURAL significance, which the NHCP did not even bother to refer to before the Court, before the NM resolved to declare it a National Cultural Treasure…

Gosh, whenever a Rizal monument is erected anywhere around the world it usually imitates the design of his mausoleum-monument at Luneta precisely because it is iconic and culturally valid! Why else would replicas have been allowed to have been erected, with the explicit approval of our National Government, with the endorsement of the NHCP, in countries ranging from Spain to China? Why didn’t the Court ask this of them? Why didn’t they ask all manner of related questions?

I really wanted to raise my hand and jump up on my feet, but of course could not… but I really wish that the procedures of the Court were more akin to a congressional hearing where I might have done so, that I might have been able to give important information to the justices from my perspective as the head of the oldest of all national cultural agencies steeped in this precise mandate, however residual these days since it has all been chopped up and confused by Republic Act No. 10066, of protecting our national cultural properties…

I don’t know about the NHCP but, sitting now in the office in my antique chair made in the late ’40’s for Eduardo Quisumbing and all the intervening directors of the institution until myself to use, I feel so awful about what is happening to our preeminent national monument…

Frankly, I wish the NHCP did not exist with respect to the preservation of monuments or built heritage of any kind, and wish they would once again become a national historical research institute, which is their true competence and rightful focus…

I also wish that the NM would be left alone to develop the museum sector in the Philippines, and that a dedicated agency or Department would be created for these matters…

Indeed, I believe we need a separate agency for heritage protection and preservation and a simplified framework whereby everything is declared as a National Monument, with Grades from 1 to 3 or 4 or 5 or whatever, and that the authority at least should be the NCCA, drawing from the NHCP or NM or whomever, on a purely technical basis. To have National Cultural Treasures and Important Cultural Properties and Heritage Houses and Marked Structures and National Historical Landmarks and National Shrines and National Historical Sites and National Monuments is really too much…

If it’s nationally significant, it’s a National Monument, of whatever appropriate grade… And there should be no leaving it to the LGU for protection if a cultural property is of national significance…. National significance should equal national protection; local significance can be left to merely local protection… This to me is really obvious…

Why relegate a national monument like the Rizal Monument to the protection of the City of Manila when it’s, uh, national? I never got to understand that, given the arguments aired at the Court. There are dozens of local monuments in the City of Manila, but the Rizal Monument? Why should the National Government rely on a dysfunctional LGU for its protection, when the Rizal Monument has been under national jurisdiction since anyone can remember…

The NHCP might of course say that, if we at the NM feel this way, we could have done our own thing and made our own action. That’s never really been our style, as we’ve always tried to engage actively with both the NHCP and NCCA, with the NM director serving as ex-officio commissioner on both their boards…

But well, yes, now, I wish we had, given the lengths to which I feel the NHCP have gone in making its stand, which, when we had discussed this at the NHCP Board, I was never led to expect would come to this end.

And so, the NM, for its part, is willing to say mea culpa, is willing for mandamus to be laid against us in this case if the Supreme Court should so decide, and will be ready to keep the faith, as we feel we must, with all the generations of Filipinos who held fast by the Rizal Monument as one of the preeminent symbols of our national culture, if not our very national identity… a symbol which the very fact of the erection of Torre de Manila, in our view, has desecrated and will continue to irremediably mar for as long as it exists…

ACT NO. 243

An Act granting the right to use public land upon the Luneta in the city of Manila upon which to erect a statue of Jose Rizal, from a fund to be raised by public subscriptions, and prescribing as a condition the method by which such subscription shall be collected and disbursed. By authority of the President of the United States, be it enacted by the United States Philippine Commission, that:

Whereas, it has been proposed that a monument shall be erected to Jose Rizal, the Philippine patriot, writer, and poet, upon the Luneta, in the city of Manila, and that the expense of the construction and erection of such monument shall be defrayed from a fund raised by public subscription; and

Whereas, it is necessary to the execution of this proposal that there should be a grant by constituted authority of the right to erect the monument upon the public land known as the Luneta: Now, therefore,

SECTION 1. The Municipal Board of the city of Manila, with the concurrence of the Advisory Board, is hereby authorized to grant permission to the committee hereafter constituted to erect the monument above mentioned upon any place upon the Luneta which may be agreed upon by the Municipal Board, the Advisory Board, and the committee hereafter constituted, with the approval of the Civil Governor, on condition that the committee in charge of raising the fund and constructing the monument, and the method of raising subscriptions and disbursing the funds, shall be as hereafter provided.

SEC. 2. The committee for raising the funds by subscription for causing the erection of the monument and the expenditure of the funds shall be Pascual Poblete, Paciano Rizal, Juan Tuason, Teodoro R. Yangco, Mariano Limjap, Maximino Paterno, Ramon Genato, Tomas G. del Rosario, Dr. Ariston Bautista.

SEC. 3. The committee shall elect a chairman and a secretary and shall certify its action in this respect to the Insular Auditor and to the Insular Treasurer. Vacancies in the committee occurring by resignation or death shall be filled by the committee, with the approval of the Civil Governor.

SEC. 4. Subscriptions shall be collected by the committee or by agents regularly appointed by the committee, whose authority to collect subscriptions shall be evidence by the possession of receipt books to be prepared and issued by the Insular Treasury to the persons so authorized. It shall be the duty of the person so authorized to give a receipt to the subscriber for the amount collected and to deposit the money collected with the Insular Treasurer at the Intendencia Building upon the day following the collection, where the collection shall be made in Manila, and as soon as practicable when collections are made outside of Manila. The Insular Treasurer shall issue a special receipt for each deposit so made, which receipt shall be invalid without the countersignature of the Insular Auditor. The Insular Auditor shall keep an account of the money thus deposited in the Treasury. The collector shall furnish to the Treasurer a list of the contributors, which list shall be made public, through the press or otherwise, at the close of each week.

SEC. 5. The funds thus collected shall be expended by the committee in any way which will contribute to the object of the subscription, to wit, the erection of a suitable monument, and this may include the regular payment of collection agents upon a percentage or per diem basis, as may seem wise to the committee. The members of the committee shall serve without compensation. The committee shall have power to offer prizes for designs for a suitable monument and to employ competent artists and sculptors to select the most appropriate design. The committee shall have charge of any ceremonies attending the laying of the cornerstone of the monument or its unveiling, subject to the approval of the Civil Governor.

SEC. 6. The funds collected in the Insular Treasury, a report of which shall be made monthly by the join report of the Insular Treasurer and Auditor to the committee, shall be disbursed upon order of the committee, evidence by warrant of the president, countersigned by the secretary of the committee and accompanied by an itemized statement of the purposes for which the money was disbursed. The accounts shall be audited by the Insular Auditor quarterly and a public statement made by the Auditor of the result of his auditing. Should any surplus fund remain after the payment of all the expenses of the erection of the monument, including the payment of the sculptor and incidental expenses, the committee shall have power to devote the surplus to any charitable, educational, or other public purpose which it may deem wise and proper.

SEC. 7. The public good requiring the speedy enactment of this bill, the passage of the same is hereby expedited in accordance with section two of “An Act prescribing the order of procedure by the Commission in the enactment of laws,” passed September twenty-sixth, nineteen hundred.

SEC. 8. This Act shall take effect on its passage.

Enacted, September 28, 1901.

8 Responses to jeremy barns on torre de manila

  1. September 4, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    “Unparalleled chance to uphold nat’l heritage” by Ivan Henares
    http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/535327/opinion/unparalleled-chance-to-uphold-nat-l-heritage

  2. September 4, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    “SC wraps up oral arguments on Torre de Manila case” by Ina Reformina
    http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/09/01/15/sc-wraps-oral-arguments-torre-de-manila-case

  3. September 6, 2015 at 12:23 am
    GabbyD

    my question is, why bother raising the fact that rizal wanted a simple grave? whats the point?

    • September 6, 2015 at 1:27 am

      the point being, by putting up the rizal monument, we did not honor his wishes daw.

      • September 6, 2015 at 2:52 am
        GabbyD

        true, but its not like its sane to “wish” for a huge monument to be erected for you.

        my point is this: he didnt reject having a rizal monument in his name, if only because he would be crazy to expect that to even be possible (at the time before his death).

        di ba? no martyr ever says, “i want a monument after me” before he dies. that would be self-aggrandizement/crazy.

    • September 19, 2015 at 10:02 pm
      anna leah

      yes. “so what” dapat ang tanong sa sinulat na yan. parang nagpapa-cute lang si Ambeth. non sequitur.

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