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CCP officials, artist dragged to court for 'offensive' art


The travails of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) are apparently far from over. Conservative Catholic lawyers made good their threat by filing a complaint Thursday against CCP officials for allegedly violating a pre-war law prohibiting exhibits offending religion. This comes after threats of violence against the CCP which forced it to close down the controversial art exhibit Kulô last Tuesday. Lawyer Manuel Dayrit of Ang Kapatiran party-list group filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday a complaint affidavit against CCP officials of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) over the exhibit Kulô, as well as versus the artist Mideo Cruz for his artwork “Poleteismo", accusing them of violating Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code on obscene exhibitions and indecent shows. The complaint was transmitted to the Ombudsman by Jo Aurea Imbong, executive director of the St. Thomas More Society, Inc., "a lawyers’ group organized to defend the Christian religion," according to their transmittal letter. Imbong, a lawyer who has often testified on behalf of Catholic bishops, and the group Pro-Life Philippines had hinted over the weekend that they were working on the criminal case over the “sacrilegious" art exhibit. “Religious belief is more superior than that; that is why artistic expression has to yield to a limit which is to respect religious rights," argued Imbong in an interview with GMA News TV. The ten CCP officials charged before the Ombudsman are CCP chairperson Emily Abrera and CCP president and artistic director Raul Sunico, as well as CCP board members Florangel Rosario Braid, Jaime Laya, Isabelo Caro Wilson, Zenaida Tantoco, Cristina Torralba, Antonio Yap, Carolyn Espiritu and Karen Ocampo-Flores. “That by hosting and allowing the… exhibit of respondent MIDEO CRUZ to be installed at the CCP Gallery which is a public building, public respondents violated their public trust and duty to the Filipino people," the complaint affidavit alleged. Flores, the CCP’s Visual Arts division head, resigned on Wednesday, a day after the exhibit was closed as senators demanded CCP officials to quit. “Nakikita ko lamang na dapat na bumalik na ko sa aking sector bilang artist, at tumulong sa pag-rally for freedom of expression," Flores said.
Imbong explained that the CCP officials are liable because the artist could not have exhibited his artwork without their permission. Cruz was only one out of 31 artists whose works were exhibited in Kulô which opened on June 17, and was originally scheduled to run until Aug. 21, as part of the CCP’s celebration of national hero Jose Rizal’s 150th birthday. The artists have expressed their intention to appeal to the CCP Board to reopen the Kulô at least on its last original scheduled day, Aug. 21. They lamented that the closure of the exhibit amounted to censorship. Penalty, fine under penal code Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code of 1930, as amended, imposes the penalty of prision mayor and/or a fine ranging from P6,000 to P12,000 on those who:
  • Publicly expound or proclaim doctrines openly contrary to public morals
  • Publish obscene literature in any form with their knowledge
  • Exhibit — in theaters, fairs, cinematographs or any other place — indecent or immoral scenes or shows, including those which offend any race or religion, and/or are contrary to morals and good customs
  • Exhibit prints, engravings, sculpture or literature that are offensive to morals.
Imbong and Dayrit said the CCP exhibit “directly attacked" Christianity, pointing out that the freedom of expression “has limits" particularly when the rights of others were already being violated. In their complaint affidavit, they said Cruz had “made a blasphemous and offensive use of sacred icons, pictures, and representations of Jesus Christ who is worshiped by Christians, the Blessed Virgin Mary who is revered and loved by Christians, as well as religious articles such as the holy rosary, the Christian cross, crucifix, scapulars and medals which are sacred instruments of Christian faith and tradition in a vulgar, insulting and blasphemous manner." In particular, they alleged that 13 artworks in Cruz’s “Poleteismo" portrayed religious images that “insult and mock Christian belief and Christian worship, and offend the religious sensibilities and faith of the Christian faithful comprising an overwhelming majority of the Filipino population." To bolster their allegations, Dayrit cited articles and editorials published by The Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, and The Manila Bulletin, submitting copies as annexes, together with photographs of the 13 artworks they found offensive. — ELR/VS/HS, GMA News
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