Monthly Archives: March 2013

Poleteismo and Principled Pluralism

ImageThe Center for International Law (Centerlaw)  said yesterday the dismissal by the Office of the Ombudsman of administrative and criminal charges against artist Mideo Cruz and 10 Cultural Center of the Philippines officials over the controversial Kulo exhibit should help clarify for Filipinos the value of free expression in a society anchored on “principled pluralism.”

“Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales deserves recognition for  highlighting the importance of reasoned albeit impassioned discussion about the values that are important to our society,” said Centerlaw lawyers Harry Roque, Joel Butuyan and Romel Regalado Bagares, who represented Cruz and CCP Museum Division Head Karen Ocampo Flores in the proceedings.

The case arose from Cruz’s “Poleteismo” – a wall collage of conflicting and contradictory images of popular religiosity, politics and consumerism – that was shown in the Kulo exhibit at the  CCP in 2011 along with 31 other art works celebrating the national hero Jose Rizal’s 150thbirthday and the University of Sto. Tomas’s 400th founding anniversary.

The exhibit, which opened on June 17, 2011, was prematurely shutdown by CCP authorities because of the controversies generated by Cruz’s installation, which, among other things, juxtaposed religious iconography with phalluses and other discordant symbols and images.

The lawyers said a society that respects principled pluralism should be able to yield space to controversial opinions, because it is at the heart of democratic deliberation, where the majority opinion is not necessarily shared by everyone and should not mean it should be accepted by everyone even without the benefit of discussion.

According to them, principled pluralism seeks to do justice to diverse religions and points of view and keeps the public square open to people of all faiths and points of view.

They said in their statement:

“Art calls for a democratic solidarity even in the face of an intense confrontation of values and perspectives because ultimately, if art is to exist in a society that promotes democratic principles it must sometimes be allowed to express even those thoughts and ideas that may not sit well with what the majority believes to be within the limits of acceptability.”

“Solidarity expects that a majority sure of their convictions should be able to take it in the chin when their cherished beliefs are put to question by a counter-cultural dynamic; it expects that in the face of intense questioning the majority, since they are sure of their convictions and are secure in their cherished doctrines, will be able to hold up on their own and offer a counter-argument in a dialogical manner that shows both grace and civility.

“Of course, this kind of democratic commitment requires a basic appreciation for the variegated function of art in society. Such an appreciation should be able to distinguish between what is shown at a rundown affair in a seedy part of town operated by criminal types, and an exhibit– albeit controversial because of the questioning it subjects society’s conventions to – set up at a government-run museum or cultural center.”

According to the lawyers, the alternative to a state and a society founded on principled pluralism is a return to a Christendom where the Inquisition was the order of the day for those who dared to cast a different vision of societal order.


Filed under Art, Celebrity, Free Expression, Human Rights, Principled Pluralism, Uncategorized

The deplorable Philippine government response to the Sabah standoff

Statement of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM)sabah
Let’s not even talk of the Philippine title to Sabah which the P-Noy administration is apparently still studying. Let’s just talk about basic obligations, and not just privileges of states.

As early as 1928 in the Las Palmas case where we lost title over the island of Las Palmas, international law has always recognized that states have concomitant obligations with their rights as sovereign. As held by the lone arbitrator Max Huber: “Territorial sovereignty, as has already been said, involves the exclusive right to display the activities of a State.  This right has a corollary, a duty: the obligation to protect within the territory the rights of other States, in particular their right to integrity and inviolability in peace and in war, together with the rights which each State may claim for its nationals in foreign territory”.
The right of a state to claim rights for its nationals abroad is referred to as “diplomatic protection”. Here, the duty of the state is to ensure that states treat their nationals abroad in a manner that complies with human standards recognized under the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, among others documents.
In connection with the current stand-off in Sabah, this should mean that the primary obligation of the Philippine government is to ensure the safety of the 200 or so followers of the Sultanate of Sulu, as well as to ensure that Malaysia should comply with its duty to protect and promote their human rights which should include the right to life, and the right to due process of law.
Stripped of legal legalese, the Philippine government owes the Filipinos holed up in Sabah the duty to ensure that they do not become victims to extralegal killings. There is an extralegal killing when the taking of life is without due process of law. This means that before Malaysians could shoot at our countrymen, they should apprehend, prosecute and find them guilty of violating Malaysian domestic law before they are meted the penalty of death.
Government response to the stand-off has however been deplorable. Instead of taking steps to espouse the human rights of our fellowmen in Sabah, they have openly sided with Malaysian authorities and have all but warned them that their massacre is inevitable. Worse, government appeared to have ordered them to return so that they can be prosecuted criminally in the Philippines for rebellion and other crimes. With this kind of conduct by the Philippine government, who needs government to give this kind of protection?
The P-Noy administration instead should make the safety of our nationals non-negotiable. If we could plead with leaders of the world to spare convicted drug mules from being meted the death penalty, why should we not plead likewise of 200 or so our countrymen who are in Sabah to seek redress for their grievances as those with title to the island of Sabah.
 It does not help any that Philippine authorities appear ignorant of the Sabah claim despite the fact that it has been constitutionalized in article 1 of both the 1935 and 1987 Constitution. Governments’ initiatives to still study the Sabah claim brings to mind the legal saying that “ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith”. In this regard, Philippine authorities should blame themselves for their ignorance of the Sabah claim. They should certainly not be negligent in their obligation to provide protection to Filipinos overseas because of their own ignorance.
CCM, as a civil society organization that has been consistently in the forefront of the fight against the evil GMA regime, condemns and deplores the government of P-Noy for its obvious dereliction of its duty to exercise diplomatic protection to our countrymen from Sulu in Sabah. While CCM does not regret having opposed the GMA administration, for its corrupt ways,  the organization  now wonders how competent the P-Noy administration is in discharging its basic obligations such as protecting its nationals.

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Filed under Decolonization, Human Rights, Sabah claim, Self-determination, Sultanate of Sulu