Where I want my taxes to go
FIGHTING WORDS By Kay Malilong Isberto (The Freeman) Updated May 25, 2010 12:00 AM
Republic Act No. 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 was signed into law on 26 March 2010 by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Several heritage groups lauded its passage. It took over a decade for the bill to become law. Versions of it were filed in the 1990s but nothing came out of them.
The complete title of the law is "An Act Providing for the Protection and Conservation of the National Cultural Heritage, Strengthening the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and its Affiliated Cultural Agencies, and for Other Purposes."
Interestingly, Article XII of the law provides for the creation of Sentro Rizal, a subject not covered by the title of the law. Sec. 26, Article VI of the Philippine Constitution states that "Every bill passed by the Congress shall embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof." It would seem that there may be issues with respect to the validity of this provision. However, until a citizen files a taxpayer's suit to question it, it is presumed valid.
More than the constitutionality of the provision, I was surprised by the purpose for the creation of the Sentro Rizal: "the promotion of Philippine arts, culture and language throughout the world." Under the same Article creating Sentro Rizal is found Section 47, which appropriates One Hundred Million Pesos "to carry out the provisions of this Act." I hope that this means that the money will not solely be used for the establishment of Sentro Rizal and instead be used to carry out the other purposes of the law, the most important being the training of local government units about cultural heritage.
Section 43 of the law states that "The Sentro Rizal shall have branches or offices in countries where there are children of overseas Filipino workers who need to be educated about their roots, as well as developed countries where there are large Filipino communities."
Sentro Rizal is envisioned as a "repository" of materials on Philippine arts, culture, and language such as books, digital video discs, compact discs, films, magazines, artworks, tourism promotion materials, information materials, and others. Section 45 states that Sentro Rizal "shall offer Filipino language courses for children and adults, as well as exhibits, small concerts, poetry reading, Philippine cuisine lessons in all Sentro Rizal branches." Section 44 states that "The Sentro Rizal shall coordinate and supervise Philippine schools for Filipino children overseas."
The implementing rules and regulations for the cultural heritage law are still being drafted. I hope that it will include provisions specifying the qualifications of those who will be appointed to run Sentro Rizal and requiring the NCCA and the persons appointed to Sentro Rizal to coordinate closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Education. I do not want the Sentro Rizal to be a social-climbing tool for people who want to live in style abroad using Philippine taxpayers' money.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is in charge of Philippine embassies and consulates abroad. I'm sure that those embassies or consulates can provide a nook or a bookshelf to hold materials about the Philippines. They can also provide venues for language lessons, exhibits, poetry-reading and cooking lessons. I do not see a need for the establishment of a separate cultural office abroad. Our taxpayers' money would be better spent elsewhere.
With respect to coordinating and supervising Philippine schools abroad, I think that the Department of Education should do the job. It's already supervising schools in the Philippines. Materials for accreditation can be sent to the Philippines and a specific department or office in the Department of Education can be assigned to keep track of Philippine schools abroad. A qualified Department of Education official can make periodic visits to supervise and check schools abroad. There is no need to station someone abroad permanently solely for Sentro Rizal. To repeat, Philippine taxpayers' money would be better spent elsewhere.
Filipino cultural heritage is a valuable resource. To study it will help us understand just what kind of people we are: Our strengths and weaknesses, our opportunities and threats. If we have a better understanding of our culture, we would discover that there is a lot about ourselves that we should celebrate. Properly implemented, the National Cultural Heritage Act can help us do that. That requires spending Philippine taxpayers' money in the Philippines, not abroad.