In a probably biased (we are on the side of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on the well publicized controversy, after all) attempt to make the most of this teaching moment, allow us to submit these questions for your reflection and consideration.
1. Why is burning an effigy of our president not considered offensive or criminal? Is it not meant to provoke and attack? Is it not an act of gross disrespect for an important figure of authority? Should such acts now therefore be banned?
2. If that doesn't cross the line, what about burning the president in effigy AND burning a truly important cultural and patriotic symbol like the flag?
We do have a law prohibits acts "[t]o mutilate, deface, defile, trample on or cast contempt or commit any act or omission casting dishonor or ridicule upon the flag or over its surface." We went to google to see if we could find any examples or pictures of someone burning the Philippine flag and - to our surprise and pride - came up empty. But this one's close enough:
In the US, flag burning is recognized as a legitimate expression of protest. As far as we know, the law banning the mutilation and defacement of the Philippine flag has not been tested in court against the Constitutional right of free speech.
In such a test, on which side would you stand?
3. In an opinion piece, the Philippine Daily Inquirer wrote that
(t)he danger here is that his art could become arrogant and terror-prone. The Church has experienced a tumultuous history of iconoclastic revolutions across the centuries (the Byzantine iconoclastic outbursts in the first millennium and the Protestant revolts in the second) that have destroyed priceless items in man’s cultural heritage.
The question is, so what?
Isn't art and music and words sometimes legitimately arrogant and terror-prone? Isn't arrogant and terror-prone art still free speech?
Where would our country be if Rizal had written Noli, or if our legislators had succumbed to similar Church-led pressure against the Rizal bill?
4. Who's to say what's art or what's not art?
Is this painting art? Is it merely disdainful, or did it cross some line that makes it scandalously disrespectful and blasphemous?
(Disclosure: From where we sit, we like it. We liked it enough to acquire for our permanent collection. )
5. Finally, given the chilling effect that has been imposed with blunt force on the Cultural Center of the Philippines and on the participating artists, who in the creative sector now will dare use their work to question the powers that be?
Regardless of where you stand on this particular exhibit, is it really worth it to set this precedent?