MANILA, Philippines—Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing on Sunday demanded the resignation of Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Chair Raul Sunico and other officials of the state-run institution for allowing an art exhibit on its premises that “desecrated Jesus Christ and the Holy Family.”
Bagatsing was particularly enraged by a crucifix with a penis glued to Christ’s face and a Christ The King figurine with rabbit ears, in a work entitled “Poleteismo” by multiawarded artist Mideo Cruz, which is part of the “Kulo” exhibit staged by a group of artists from the University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic institution.
“Binaboy ng husto si Cristo (They really disrespected Christ),” said Bagatsing, who called for an immediate stop to the exhibit, which opened on June 17 and will run until Aug. 21.
The exhibit commemorates the 150th birth anniversary of the national hero Jose Rizal, who was also denounced for blasphemy in his time.
Malacañang would not comment on the issue, according to Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte. She said it was up to the CCP to defend its decisions.
Artist groups defended the exhibit as an exercise of the freedom of expression.
But Bagatsing said “CCP is supposed to promote the positive side of culture and the arts. They did the exact opposite.”
Affront to Christianity
Bagatsing told the Inquirer he would deliver a privilege speech on Monday to condemn the “Kulo” exhibit, demand the resignation of the CCP officials, and conduct an investigation into the incident.
“One of the artists involved in the exhibit is a certain Mideo Cruz, pangalan pa mandin (he’s even named) Cruz (cross). It’s a total affront to Christianity and to the Catholics, in particular,” the lawmaker said.
Bagatsing is also one of the advocates of the Catholic lobby to stop the passage of the reproductive health (RH) bill in Congress. Bagatsing earlier said he believed the RH bill was a “direct affront to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
“These CCP officials should be answerable to the people. That’s not promoting our culture and art. Ang pangit at ang laswa-laswa (it’s ugly and pornographic),” he said.
The Catholic Church also denounced Cruz’s artwork, describing it as “blasphemous.”
Artist Cruz was given the Ateneo Art Award in 2007. He also received one of the CCP 13 Artists Award in 2003.
Various Catholic groups, including Pro-life Philippines, are also mulling filing charges against the artist and the CCP for what they said was a “sacrilegious” exhibit, and have demanded the exhibit close in 48 hours or face the legal consequences, according to Bagatsing.
Bagatsing recalled a similar incident in South Africa three years ago where a teacher in a classroom named a teddy bear “Allah,” creating an uproar among Muslims worldwide because it is the name of the Muslim prophet.
Exhibit still open
“The entire Christianity takes offense at this exhibit. It should be stopped immediately,” Bagatsing said.
The CCP is investigating the matter but has not closed down the exhibit.
The Palace will leave it to the CCP board to defend itself from the criticism it has encountered for its decision to allow artist Mideo Cruz to exhibit his works, Valte said on Sunday.
Valte also made it clear the Palace had no hand in the staging of Cruz’s work at the CCP.
“We see no reason why we should comment on something we were not consulted about,” Valte said over state-run dzRB radio. ”
Valte said she did not see why a group of artists calling itself UGATLahi Artists Collective was blaming President Aquino for the denunciations of Cruz’s artwork.
“If artists are saying this is covered by their freedom of expression, then that is what they should push. For the religious groups and ordinary Catholics that say they are offended by the art, they should push that as well,” she said. “So each should rise and fall on their own merits.” With a report from Christine O. Avendaño