Parish priest clears up demolition controversy

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Parish priest clears up demolition controversy

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The outcry over the destruction of old Spanish structures used as primary schools for boys and girls or “Escuela de Ninos y Ninas” has dragged the name of the town’s parish priest after officials of a government agency washed it’s hands on the controversy.

St. Augustine parish priest, Fr.. Vivencio Husain, Jr. explained his role in the demolition of old Spanish structures located right across the town plaza after  Engineer Domingo Lamoste, Head of the Physical Facilities Unit of DEPED told DYRD ‘Inyong Alagad” that the destruction was based on the request of Husain and Panglao Mayor Leonila Montero.

“I have nothing to do with the demolition of the structures neither did I talked or made a request in behalf of the Mayor”, said Husain in an exclusive interview with the Chronicle.

Husain furnished the Chronicle copies of a series of letters with the National Museum of the Philippines showing the role played by the parish that unfortunately led to its alleged involvement of the demolition.

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The uproar over the demolition of the old structures was brought to the public eye after Property Custodian Ricardo Guiritan of the Panglao Central Elementary School where the structures were standing blew the whistle over “Inyong Alagad”.

Guiritan claimed that the coral stones from the demolished structures were carted by workers of the contractor Architect Socrates Fucanan to the restoration site a few meters away from the elementary school.

But the Chronicle learned that the coral stones intended for the restoration of the watch tower that littered the site are now gone after the controversy hit the papers.

Apparently, according to Guiritan the coral stones from the demolished buildings were used to restore parts of the watch tower that were damaged by the earthquake.

The ruins of the demolished old Spanish structures and the coral stones littered on the grounds near the watch tower were captured in photos taken by the Chronicle and Romulo Taga-an, head of the Center for Culture and Arts Development (CCAD) Office of the Provincial Government.
When the controversy blew up, the Panglao Watch Tower which is under the custody of the church was undergoing a P1.3 million emergency restoration/conservation  funded by the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) and implemented by the National Museum of the Philippines.

A year after the destructive 7.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked Bohol on October 13, 2015, Husain wrote to Director Jeremy Barnes of the National Museum on September 12, 2014 about “coral stones from the Escuelas de Ninos y Ninas laying idle and just soaked to the sun and rain”.

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Recognizing the importance of the old Spanish structures declared as an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum on August 29, 2011 “I am appealing to your good office to allow us to use a few of these coral stones for the restoration and preservation of the historical Watch Tower of Panglao”.

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A month later, Angel Bautista, Acting Assistant Director of the National Museum wrote Husain that his office “has no objection to the request”.

Based on the communications from the National Museum, Husain stressed that “nowhere in the letters did I mention or even suggested for the demolition or destruction of the Spanish structures or any buildings in the elementary school”

However, on October 20, 2014 Montero wrote Dr. Wilfreda Bongalos, DepEd-Bohol Schools Division Superintendent that the LGU of Panglao will use the “loss coral stones/bricks” lying idle from the old Spanish structures for the restoration of the watch tower.

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Two days later, Bongalos wrote back Montero informing her that the DepED “interposes no objection to your goal in the promotion and preservation of our cultural heritage”.

Also on the same day Bongalos wrote Jose Fullido, Principal of the Panglao Central Elementary School that 3 new classroom buildings will be constructed “the soonest time”.

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Since the school has been declared a Cultural Heritage area, Bongalos informed Fullido that “we cannot develop nor erect any structure to that campus without the approval of the National Museum of the Philippines”.

In the same letter, Bongalos informed Fullido that she has “authorized Archt. Socrates Fucanan to help make a site development plan to be submitted to the National Museum for approval”.

However, when Guiritan as property custodian learned about the construction of the 3 school buildings “I recommended a site within the campus that would not in any way destroy any structures within the school but my recommendations were ignored”.

According to Guiritan DepEd insisted on building the 3 classrooms in an area adjacent to the old structures that would cause the demolition of the buildings.

The 5,165 sq. meter lot owned by the Local Government Unit of Panglao and has been used by the DepEd as the school site of the elementary school in Panglao is under a “Grant of Usufruct”.

The usufruct was approved on September 29, 1999 under the administration of Mayor Toribio Bon.

Efforts to get the side of Fucanan proved futile after calls and txt messages were not returned while Montero left for Canada yesterday morning.

In the case of Panglao, history has been erased in utter disregard to the historical heritage of the Filipinos to accommodate structures that could have been placed elsewhere.

With the gradual destruction of Panglao’s natural attractions due to man’s greed and neglect, whatever few stones of old Spanish structures left were not even spared but hammered and pounded into oblivion. (CMV)

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