Category Archives: Articles

Enrile chides CCP exec at Senate budget hearing

B y Kim Tan



Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Tuesday lectured an official of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) regarding their decision to allow the controversial exhbit “Kulô ” to be displayed inside their premises.

“It’s the Cultural Center of the Philippines, not the Cultural Center of anybody. To assault the people, the sensibilities of people believing in something… I don’t think that is part of the function of the CCP,” Enrile told CCP president Dr. Raul Sunico during Tuesday’s Senate finance committee hearing on the proposed budget of the CCP and other executive offices.

Among the works displayed in Kulô was Mideo Cruz’s mixed-media collage called “Poleteismo,” which touched off vehement protests from Catholic church leaders and politicians for juxtaposing religious images with clowns, Mickey Mouse ears, and a bright red penis.

Enrile, however, said the CCP should balance what’s being exhibited against the “sensibilities” of the population.

“If you do that to the Muslim, if you do something like that, I don’t think you’ll be pardoned,” he said.

Enrile likewise said the CCP officials should remember that they are being funded by the taxpayer’s money.

“That’s why you’re called trustees, trustees of the culture of the country,” he said.

The CCP is asking for a budget of P202 million for 2012.


Sunico, for his part, thanked Enrile and said that they are “very much aware” of their duties.

Senate education committee chairman Sen. Edgardo Angara likewise told Enrile that the CCP officials have promised to review their policy on exhibits, both visual and performance.

“They’re supposed to get back to us on that,” Angara said.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III had earlier threatened to slash the budget of the CCP should it fail to justify why it allowed Kulô to be displayed there.

During a previous Senate inquiry, Sunico said that the CCP board had wanted to close down the exhibit earlier but that they also wanted to uphold artistic freedom.

No motion to slash the CCP budget had been proposed as of posting time.

Also among the agencies whose budgets are being discussed are the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, National Historical Institute, Commission on Filipino Language, Commission on Filipinos Overseas, National Library, National Archives, Film Development Council of the Philippines, Movie and Television Classification Board, Development Academy of the Philippines, Philippine Sports Commission, and National Commission on Indigenous People. — RSJ, GMA News



Art and the right not to speak

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S.J.



Art, or what different people call art, is or can be a form of expression. Like any expression it is protected by the freedom of speech clause of the Constitution. There are only two forms of expression that are not protected by the Constitution: libel and obscenity. Sacrilegious expression which is not libelous nor obscene is protected.

Art can be libelous if it projects something that is untrue about another in a manner that does harm to a person or to his reputation by tending to bring the object of the art into ridicule, hatred or contempt by others. Libel is presumed to be malicious and can be the basis of award for damages.

Art can also be obscene. But what is obscenity? The basic guidelines for a court trying to determine whether a particular work is obscene are: “(a) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest . . . (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” These are guidelines which Philippine jurisprudence has accepted.

But stricter guidelines are also accepted in situations where material is forced on minors who are not looking for it, as for instance in television shows during hours when minors can be presumed to be still watching. Our Court has called it “relative obscenity.”

I understand that a court case, (whether criminal or civil, I do not know), has been filed against the officers of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and against the artist of the exhibit. Those suing will be hard put to prove obscenity or libel on the basis of the accepted standards for these offenses. Whose honor or reputation are being maliciously damaged? What patently offensive sexual conduct is being depicted? The suit might also be for “immoral doctrines and exhibitions” under Article 201 of the Penal Code. We will all be watching how far such a suit can prosper. Since art, even ugly art, is a form of expression, it can be made punishable only when it presents a clear and present danger of an evil which the state has the right to prevent.

I come now to the other aspect of freedom of expression, namely the freedom not to speak. Since the CCP has withdrawn the exhibit, this means that the CCP has decided to discontinue its sponsorship of the exhibit. In other words, the CCP has decided to exercise its right not to speak. But it is not thereby saying that the objects may not be exhibited elsewhere. (By discontinuing the exhibit, however, was there a violation of contract? That is another question.)

But, as is well known, the CCP was created through Executive Order 30 for the purpose of promoting and preserving Filipino arts and culture. As its website says, it has sought “to truly embody its logo of katotohanan (truth), kagandahan (beauty) and kabutihan (goodness).”

The question I would ask is whether the CCP, a government agency, may be compelled to show whatever artists feel should be shown. Put differently, is the CCP free to choose what it wants to show without violating freedom of expression?

While what is expressly guaranteed by the Constitution is the freedom of speech or expression, the guarantee does not exclude the freedom not to speak. The freedom not to speak is pure common sense such that, perhaps, for this reason there is no constitutional provision specifically guaranteeing it.

From where I sit, I see the problem confronting the CCP as analogous to the problem of local governments in deciding whether to allow a monument in a public park. The government has the right to choose what permanent monuments it may sponsor in government parks. Although a public park is a traditional public forum, the display of a permanent monument in a public park is a form of “government speech.” No one can dictate to government what speech it should make or sponsor. As one decision puts it: “Governments have long used monuments to speak to the public. Since ancient times, kings, emperors, and other rulers have erected statues of themselves to remind their subjects of their authority and power. Triumphal arches, columns and other monuments have been built to commemorate military victories and sacrifices and other events of civic importance. A monument, by definition, is a structure that is designed as a means of expression. When a government entity arranges for the construction of a monument, it does so because it wishes to convey some thought or instill some feeling in those who see the structure.”

Accordingly, cities take some care in accepting donated monuments. They may not be compelled to accept everything offered. The monuments that are accepted have the effect of conveying a government message, and thus constitute government speech.

I look at exhibits in the CCP in an analogous way. The CCP is a government institution missioned to display what it considers to be katotohanan (truth), kagandahan (beauty) and kabutihan (goodness) and not what others consider to be such. Artists whose work the CCP does not accept are free to exhibit their work elsewhere. The issue is not freedom of speech but freedom not to speak.

Artists march vs art censorship

By Carmela Lapeña



Artists on Sunday gathered at the Cultural Center of the Philippines to protest censorship and show their support for freedom of expression following the controversy generated by a recent exhibit there.

Clad mostly in white, the artists marched up the CCP ramp to the main steps where a program was held to symbolically close the controversial Kulô exhibit, which featured Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo.

Hindi nagtatapos dito sa ating ginagawa ngayon na supposedly closing ng Kulo exhibit. Patuloy pa rin ang ating diskurso,” said Buen Calubayan, co-curator of the exhibit.

“What happened to Poletesimo, what happened to Kulô — it should be a warning to all of us. It’s a symptom of a greater crisis… despite our democratic processes, our minds are not free,” said Karen Flores, who resigned as CCP Visual Arts Department head following the furor over the exhibit.

Catholic groups labeled Poleteismo as blasphemous for juxtaposing religious images and representations of genitalia, among many other objects.

Cruz had already asked for forgiveness from people offended by his art, which he said was aimed at challenging the mind.
VIDEOArtists’ groups, meanwhile, voiced support to Cruz and Kulô during Sunday’s event.

“The exhibit aimed to present the contemporary artist’s interpretation of Rizal’s teachings on life, love for country, and revolutionary fervor of the artists to guard against any form of oppression, then and now,” read a statement from Palayain ang Sining, an artists’ coalition formed to rally art practitioners to uphold the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

“We shall stand vigilant, and be prepared to question any instrument that cowers us into silence and fear,” read Palayain ang Sining spokesperson Iggy Rodriguez.

“If art cannot be safe behind these doors at the CCP, then there is nowhere that it can be safe,” said Filipino Freethinkers spokesperson Kenneth Keng. “I am a Christian, and I am not offended by this exhibit.”

For his part, Dustin Celestino, another member of Filipino Freethinkers, said: “I am dressed up as Jesus to tell everyone that in our opinion, if ever there are gods, I don’t think they would be offended over art.”

Apart from short speeches, Sunday’s program included performances from Axel Pinpin, the Ugatlahi Artist Collective, Tao sa Laya, Talahib, Kilometer 64 founder Rustom Casia, and Airdance and the UP Dance Company.

CCP Vice President and Artistic Director Chris Millado noted that artists must also unite in order to promote understanding and appreciation of the arts.

Kailangan din po natin, bilang artist na maalala na kapag nilagay natin yun, ay handa tayong panindigan ang ating sinabi. Handa tayong makipag engage at ipagpatuloy ang dialogo,” said Millado, adding that there is a need for art education, as well as financial support for the arts.

National Artist and chairperson of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines Bienvenido Lumera, who was the last person to speak, rallied artists to fight against censorship.

Dapat natin igiit na ang artista ay hindi siyang magtatakda ng limitasyon sa kanyang paglikha ng sining. Bahala yung mga magmamasid, bahala yung mga manonood, bahala yung mga makikinig na siyang magpasya kung ano ang hindi dapat ginawa ng artista. Bilang manlilikha hindi niya dapat tanggapin na siya ang dapat magpapasya na ganito ang limit ng aking sasabihin. Pagkakataon ito upang ipakilala natin na tayo bilang mga artista ay may paninindigan tungkol sa tinatawag na freedom of expression,” he said. — KBK, GMA News


MD: “Poleteismo” and the CCP “Kulo” exhibit controversy Tonight on MD”


Art for Art’s Sake?
Never has a piece of artwork caused this much public uproar in recent history. The Church openly expressed its disfavor. Other artists voiced their dismay. Still other artists defended the artist and his work. Rallies have been organized. The Senate began to investigate. The debates continue.All because of Poleteismo, a piece made by visual and installation artist Mideo Cruz.

With his juxtaposition of religious and sexual symbolisms, he has been tagged anywhere from “amateur” to downright “satanic.”

But in the middle of the brouhaha, do people really understand the full meaning of Cruz’s work, denounced by many as blasphemous?

How should one deconstruct and analyze a certain artwork? What should one do when faced with an art work that offends? Artists cry out for freedom of expression. But is this freedom absolute? Who sets the parameters and bounds? Who defines what is art and what is trash?

Ride with Jay Taruc as he seeks to understand the points of view of the Church, artists, and Mideo Cruz himself, and attempts to tell the story of Poleteismo from all these angles to the common Filipino.

Not their stand


Not their stand

The news article entitled “Artists join Church protest” by Nida Buenafe on August 16, 2011 of the Visayan Daily Star, states that the Bishop was “acknowledging the Bacolod and Negros artists for their show of support to the church-led indignation rally…” We would like to clarify that the presence of a number of visual artists in the rally does not mean the support by all Bacolod and Negros artists of that particular church-led initiative, which included the burning of an effigy and the political championing of other causes that have nothing to do with the issue involving Politiesmo.

We refuse to be drawn into a political move concerning the installation of Mideo Cruz’s work at the CCP since the Church simplified the problem by turning it into an exclusive case of an attack to their faith. We condemn any move asking for a law that will allow the regulation of art exhibition and thus artistic freedom, confident in our constitutional rights as laid down in Article III Section 4. of the 1987 Philippine Constitution that provides, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

We remind all sectors that an artist is responsible to his truth and it merits the soul of the community that it is so. The united stand of our community of artists is NO TO CENSORSHIP.


Charlie Co, Gallery Orange

Dennis Ascalon, Black Artists in Asia

Peque Gallaga

Nunelucio Alvarado, Pintor Kulapol

Raymond Legaspi

Performance Laboratory, Maskara Theatre Ensemble


Puwersa Pintura

Manny Montelibano, Produksyon Tramontina

Alla Prima

Art Association of Bacolod – Negros

Roger Salvarita, Malkootha Arts Bud

Dwight Rodrigazo, Dance Pull Company

No more subpoena for artist Mideo Cruz, Senate panel says

(Updated 5:03 p.m.) The Senate education, arts, and culture committee on Tuesday decided it will no longer subpoena Mideo Cruz, the artist responsible for the controversial artwork displayed in an exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

“It’s not really the artist that is under inquiry so to speak. It’s really the CCP as a public institution,” Senate education comittee chairman Sen. Edgardo Angara told reporters after the panel’s hearing into the exhbit issue.

Cruz is the artist responsible for the mixed-media collage called “Poleteismo,” which sparked vehement protests from Catholic church leaders and politicians for juxtaposing religious images with clowns, Mickey Mouse ears, and a bright red penis.

In an email to GMA News Online, Cruz said he skipped the Senate proceedings because the issue no longer concerns on his work “but an issue of art education and the broader fight for freedom of expression.”

“For this reason, I abide with the decisions of a broad alliance that I am closely working with, in advancing these cause instead of feeding my self-serving impulse to defend my work or my person to each querry, insult or threat being hurled at me. After all, the purpose of my artworks have always been to instill critical thought more than in selling my name,” Cruz said.

Earlier in the day, Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada asked that Cruz be issued a subpoena for failing to show up during Tuesday’s hearing.

Angara, however, said that they will no longer conduct another hearing so there is no need to summon him anymore.

“There is no more need for another session. We believe that this particular session has been very quite comprehensive and we heard practically all the stakeholders involved in the controversy. We believe that we have exhausted, perhaps we have already pursued all lines of inquiry that we need not set another session,” he said.

But Angara said they still have to weigh up to what extent an artist can express himself.


In a television interview on Friday, Cruz sought forgiveness from people offended by his art, but insisted his inclination is to do projects that are aimed at challenging the mind.

On Tuesday, he reiterated his apology.

“I apologize if I have offended anyone. My artworks are to me, like a carpenter to his hammer, my tools to reexamine our public morals and ideals. In the end, I assume that my audience would exercise their logical decision-making to reject or accept the message or to sway them towards improving society,” he said.

“I apologize if I hold a contrary view to others but I honestly believe that providing a space for a different voice is necessary for mature society,” he added. — Kim Tan/RSJ, GMA News

“You Might End Up in a Casket”: A Q&A With Mideo Cruz on His Controversial Dildo Jesus Sculpture and the Perils of Political Art in the Philippines



What is Philippines-based artist Mideo Cruz going to do now that his native country’s former first lady Imelda Marcos personally demanded that an exhibition of his work to be closed? Cruz’s installation “Poleteismo” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines plastered the walls with a dense assortment of political and religious imagery — as well as reliquary-like boxes and a large crucifix affixed with a dildo. It sparked the largest uproar over free speech of recent memory in the country, making international headlines, and leading the show to be shuttered amid rage from offended Catholics. Such was the uproar that even shutting the show wasn’t enough: an exorcistwas called in to cleanse the space of “Poleteismo”‘s taint.

Cruz’s work has been branded little more than “shock art,” but the artist — who says he lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a time in 2009, incidentally, at the PointB Worklodge — has a different take. Following the closure of the show, Cruz talked to ARTINFO about the meaning of “Poleteismo,” explained his take on the country’s political climate, and laughed at death threats from “people who call themselves Christians.”

Can you describe your piece and your inspiration for creating the artwork that has caused so much controversy?

My installation serves as a mirror for a life full of opposing realities. It is meant to reflect on how we construct our imagined realities. These kinds of displays of images are commonly posted on the worn-out walls of every house, and can be found in impoverished areas. Things are posted like certificates, medals, photographs, calendars, posters, pictures of celebrities, politicians, and others, as a way to decorate the space or to affect how others perceive us. The details of the images in my installation are full of metaphorical ironies based on my personal doubts about my society.

The Philippines was named after a Spanish monarch who had a great passion for collecting religious relics. I’m also a pack rat who collects my own relics. Most of the items here are from my vault collected since the early ’90s. And sadly, these relics are the images I see that our culture is creating. We need to realize that this is the mirror of our society and of ourselves. The uproar it [“Poleteismo”] created might reflect people’s unconscious denial of seeing themselves truthfully in the mirror. The reality of our society is the real blasphemy, the blasphemy of our sacred self.

When the show was being organized, did you think your piece would cause a stir?

With the usual art audience, probably, yes — but I did not think that it would become something this widespread. Some people, particularly the mass media, took the show out of context, distorting images that had to be actually experienced. Derogatory terms were used to create a fragmented view of the work for the audience, rather than encouraging an experience of the work as a whole.

How did you find out about the controversy that followed the exhibition’s opening?

I was out of town when the media started calling me over the phone. At first I mistook this for a prank by some journalist friends. Then, as events unfolded, the media began to treat matters as if what was happening at the gallery was criminal. The controversy was blown up as if something out of the ordinary was taking place at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Given the reaction to your piece, do you feel that the Philippines are a good place to make art?

Things are hard for art, but also it’s hard just to live. It is a dangerous country, with 85 percent of the population being conservative, and that same rate of poverty. We are the only country in the world that doesn’t have a divorce law, and to this day using a condom is still a moral issue.

In art, with the recent controversy about my so-called blasphemous images, the media has played a major role — instead of educating their audience, they sensationalized the matter to get higher ratings. Mediocrity is always dangerous. Still, overall it is a good thing that discussion is happening now across the country. Now people know that these kinds of issues exist. This is a good beginning for future discussion. In some of the forums that have been organized responding to the controversy, you can see young people debating the old leaders of the church, and you can be proud of how these young people have stood their ground. This is a good indication that we have a good and intelligent generation in the future.

Do you feel constricted at all in your art making because of the climate in the Philippines?

Not really. What happened recently may be exceptional. The institution needed a sacrificial lamb for their sins. I’m an accidental victim of their atonement. The media loves it. The real threat now is about security from Catholic devotees who want to hurt me. It’s a bit ironic, actually, receiving threats from people who call themselves Christians.

It’s good to work in the Philippines because I love the texture of the place. Most of the materials I need are right around the corner. There might be some shortcomings, but things in general are not so difficult to handle. There will always be restrictions wherever you go, I think. Here the difficulty, as I have experienced it, is the danger of the mediocrity of the discourse, and the fact that you might end up in a casket.