MANILA, AUGUST 16, 2011 (STAR) By Marvin Sy -  Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile yesterday warned the board members of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) against hosting future exhibits similar to the controversial Politeismo of visual artist Mideo Cruz.

Enrile, who was not able to attend the Senate’s inquiry into the exhibit last week, gave the warning during the hearing on the P202-million budget of the CCP for 2012.

The Senate leader reminded CCP president Raul Sunico that he was an original director of the CCP when it was created in 1966 and that it was the responsibility of the trustees to screen the art works that would be displayed in the institution.

Enrile said that the Politeismo section of Cruz, which was part of the “Kulo” exhibit of artists from the University of Santo Tomas, was not something that should have been exhibited in the CCP.

The art exhibit Kulo drew flak for being “sacrilegious” and “blasphemous.”

“Of course we respect the right of an artist to express himself or herself, that’s a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. But you can do that by going out into the public parks or to anywhere that is not supported by public money,” Enrile said.

“It’s the right of the State to say what will be exhibited and not be exhibited in that house which is supposed to be the house of the culture of the country,” he added.

Enrile called for a reexamination of the policies of the CCP as a result of the controversial exhibit.

Sunico admitted that the exhibit generated a lot of furor and controversy and that it raised various questions for the board members regarding freedom of expression and religious sensitivities.

During last week’s hearing, Sunico noted that majority of the CCP’s board members wanted to close the exhibit right away after they found out about the artwork of Cruz.

Enrile reiterated that the CCP should not be treated like any other art gallery because it represents every sector of society and is funded by the government.

“It houses every facet of our culture but to assault the sensitivities of people believing in something, I don’t think is a part of the function of the Cultural Center,” he said.

“If you do that to the Muslims, if you do something like that, I don’t think you will be pardoned. Remember the case of Rushdie,” he added, referring to Booker Prize winning author Salman Rushdie who was sentenced to death by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini for insulting Islam with his book “The Satanic Verses.”

The senator stressed that the CCP board must always remember that taxpayers’ money is being used to finance its operations and these taxpayers come from a diverse background in their culture and faith.

“When you deal with faith, people can die for it. That’s why you notice the reaction of some people. Anyway, I’m just cautioning you that the Cultural Center is not a center where anyone can demand to have access. That’s why you’re called trustees, you’re trustees of the culture of the country. That means you have to balance what is being exhibited there against the sensibilities of the population,” he said.


Sen Enrile lectures CCP execs in Senate budget hearing

MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile gave the Cultural Center of the Philippines a piece of his mind about the controversial “Kulo” art exhibit during a hearing of the subfinance committee on Tuesday.

Enrile took advantage of the presence in the hearing of CCP president Dr. Raul Sunico and subordinates to lecture them about what he thinks the center should or should not showcase as part of the country’s culture and heritage.

The Kulo exhibit was prematurely closed earlier this month partly because one of the works exhibited—Mideo Cruz’s “Poleteismo”—was vandalized. It was denounced as “blasphemous” by the Catholic Church.

Sunico et al. were at the hearing of the subfinance committee, which was looking into the 2012 proposed budgets of several government agencies including the CCP.

“You better study the history of the creation of the CCP. I was an original director of this,” Enrile began.

“The CCP is not a cultural center of anybody but of the entire Philippines. It houses every facet (of) our culture. To assault the sensibilities of people believing in something, I don’t think that is part of the function of CCP,” the Senate president said.

Enrile did not specifically mention the “Poleteismo” installation of Cruz, one of 32 featured works in the exhibit staged to mark the 150th birth anniversary of national hero Jose Rizal.

Enrile, among a bevy of senators who took offense, has threatened to cut the annual government subsidy given to the CCP.

“If you do that to the Muslims, if you do something like that, I don’t think you will be pardoned,” Enrile’s rant continued.

“Remember the case of (Salman) Rushdie? When you deal with faith, people (are willing to) die for it … Anyway, I’m just cautioning you that the Cultural Center is not a center for (personal whims),” he said.

The Indian-British Rushdie was given a “fatwa,” or death sentence, by the Ayatolla Khomeini of Iran in 1989 for his novel “The Satanic Verses (1988),” which conservative Muslims found offensive to Islam. The Ayatollah’s move, however, was denounced by many democratic governments. The prize-winning author was given police protection in the UK; in 2007 he was appointed a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to literature.”

Enrile continued: “That’s why you’re called trustees … You’re trustees of the culture of the country; that means you have to balance what is (exhibited) there against the sensibilities of the population.”

“Thank you, Your Honor. We are very much aware of that,” Sunico replied.

Senator Edgardo Angara intervened at this point and reminded Enrile that the CCP board has started to review “the entire policy for visual and performance.”

“Just present your budget here,” Angara advised Sunico.

“Baka mabawasan pa ’yan (It may be reduced),” he added in jest.

The center is asking for a P202-million government subsidy for 2012, a measly increase of less than P330,000 from its allowance this year.

Sunico later told the Senate finance subcommittee that the CCP has request for two straight years a P40 million increase for training and production expenses, arts and education outreach programs, and the repair of aging buildings.

“Even if the increase is granted by the Senate, the Department of Budget and Management declines. We hope it’s still possible to (consider) this request,” Sunico said.

The artistic staff of the CCP had defended their decision to host the art exhibit, citing the artists’ freedom of expression.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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