Considering the importance of preserving what was left of existing structures that were targeted for demolition, the National Museum of the Philippines verbally ordered school officials to “cease and desist” from further wrecking structures declared as “Important Cultural Properties” (ICP).
Angel Bautista, Asst Director of the National Museum (NM) went to the Panglao Central Elementary School to verify reports that structures used as classrooms and library during the Spanish era were demolished to give way to three Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) donated classrooms.
TheÂ two Spanish structures known as “escuelas de niÃ±os y niÃ±as” were built of stone and wood during the second half of the Spanish regime and were declared as ICP’s having exceptional historical and cultural significance to the Philippines.
Bautista invoked the powers granted under RA 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 to issue a Cease and Desist Order when the physical integrity of an ICP is found to be in danger of destruction or significant alteration from its original state.
Upon inspection, remains of the escuelas were documented by Museum officials showing what appears to be newly demolished limestone blocks littered within the site where wooden scaffoldings were erected in preparation for the construction of the classrooms.
Bautista also instructed Grace Mendez, District Supervisor that buildings that ICP’s as stated in RA 4846 or “The Cultural and Properties and Protection Act” are cultural properties which have been singled out from among inumerable cultural properties as having exceptional historical and cultural significance.
A panel of experts declared the two schools including the St. Augustine Parish Church and complex, the plaza, the old Panglao municipio, the archway and mortuary chapel of the 19th century cemetery as ICP’s on August 29, 2011 by virtue of Museum Declaration No. 10-2011.Fr. Milan Ted Torralba, Manuel Noche and Orlando Abinion formed the panel of experts that conducted an examination and research of the two Spanish edifices.
The issue of the demolition of the Spanish structures were formally brought to the attention of the National Museum officials during a stakeholders meeting on April 23, 2015 at the hall of the Parish of San Agustin in Panglao.
Zenaida Cloma, OIC of Panglao Central Elementary School and Grace Mendez, District Supervisor admitted that structures were demolished to give way to the construction of three new school buildings.
But the two teachers told NM officials that contrary to reports, the structures were considered ruins and could not be considered buildings.
Ricardo Guiritan, Property Custodian, the whistle blower of the demolition of the Spanish structures stood his ground that the structures still had walls but were ordered destroyed by Arch Socrates Fucanan.
According to Guiritan, the structures were demolished when initial construction of the school buildings started.
Carlos Panagdangan, construction worker of Fucanan told theÂ ChronicleÂ that he was instructed by Fucanan to demolish the building and bring the limestone blocks to the site as an ongoing restoration project of the Panglao watch tower.
For his part, Fucanan, a volunteer Cultural Heritage worker told Museum officials that as authorized by Wilfreda Bongalos, Schools Division Superintendent, a site development plan was prepared and was submitted to the National Museum for approval.
Apparently, work started even without the approval of the development plan as Bautista said that “the plan was still awaiting the approval of the Director of the National Museum”.
Bautista allowed interposed no objection to the request of Panglao Parish Priest Vivencio Husain, Jr. “to allow the use of few coral stones laying idle beside the Escuelas de Ninos y Ninas for the restoration and preservation of the church owned Panglao Watch Tower”.
Charles Tantingco OIC of the local branch of the National Museum blamed theÂ ChronicleÂ for the furor caused by the news article saying “there was no building demolished since one of the escuellas were turned into a rest room”.
Dr. Jayme Laya in his Manila Bulletin column on April 13, 2015 “Wala Lang” quoted Fr. Ted Torralba of the Diocese of Tagbilaran confirming that “escuella buildings remain in Alburquerque, Baclayon, Loay, Cortes, Corella, Tubigon, Panglao and Dimiao, mostly LGU property.
The escuellas de ninos y ninas and the old Panglao Municipio stands on a 5,165 sq.m lot owned by the LGU of Panglao but is administered by the Department of Education under a Grant of Usufructuary Rights during the term of former Panglao Mayor Toribio Bon.
Panglao Municipal Administrator Noel Hormachuelos pleaded with Museum officials to fast track the study of the development plan to forestall overcrowding of students due to lack of classrooms.
Also, Municipal Engineer Rogelio Bunao reminded the teachers that all construction works of the DepEd should pass thru the building official for review and issuance of permits.
Bautista put on notice the LGU and the teachers that since buildings declared as ICP’s within the area, any activity involving the structures should get the approval of the NM.Â (CMV)