MANILA, Philippines – Artist Mideo Cruz has been absolved by the Office of the Ombudsman of criminal charges stemming from his controversial “Kulo” art exhibit and “Poleteismo” artwork.
“Poleteismo” went on exhibit starting June 17, 2011, but was closed down on August 9, 2011. The said artwork featured a collage of religious statuettes and icons and photos of sports and entertainment personalities, among others and was deemed obscene by certain viewers.
The joint ruling found the context of “Poleteismo”, as part of the “Kulo” exhibit, aimed to showcase the artists' contribution to the discourse in art and social reality.
The ruling likewise said that the exhibit was intended primarily for people interested in the art, and it was placed at the far end of the gallery with an exhibit advisory that some artworks may not be fit for viewing by minors as well as “Poleteismo's” accompanying text explaining "idolatry and deconstruction of neo-deities."
It also ruled the artwork neither depicts, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct nor appeals to the prurient interest.
The artwork was also found not to be lacking in serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value as to remove it from the ambit of constitutionally protected expression.
The Ombudsman said otherwise censoring offensive artworks is a form of prior restraint generally prohibited by the 1987 Constitution, there being no showing that it falls under the limited exceptions where an expression may be subject to prior restraint.
Manuel Dayrit filed an administrative complaint against the CCP officials for violation of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standard for Public Officials and Employees.
Eusebio Dulatas, Jr. filed a separate case against Abrera and Sunico for Grave Misconduct and Conduct Unbecoming of a Public Officer or Employee.
Dayrit and Dulatas also filed criminal complaints against Cruz and the CCP officials for violating Article 201, paragraph 2 (b) of the Revised Penal Code, which states: “(b) Those who, in theaters, fairs, cinematographs or any other place, exhibit, indecent or immoral plays, scenes, acts or shows, whether live or in film, which are prescribed by virtue hereof, shall include those which (1) glorify criminals or condone crimes; (2) serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography; (3) offend any race or religion; (4) tend to abet traffic in and use of prohibited drugs; and (5) are contrary to law, public order, morals, and good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts.”
The 34-page joint resolution from the Obudsman said that the said paragraph only applies to live shows or moving images since the provision uses the phrase “whether live or in film.”
The Ombudsman also found neither probable cause to indict the respondents nor substantial evidence to hold them administratively liable, respectively. It also found no sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime under paragraph 2(b) has been committed by the respondents.
In resolving the administrative cases, it ruled that the violation of the norms of conduct under Section 4 of RA 6713 does not per se make a public officer or employee administratively liable, citing Domingo vs. Ombudsman which said the law does not provide penalties or sanctions for failure to observe those norms, but observance thereof is relevant in granting rewards or incentives.
The Ombudsman also said since they had no legal duty to prohibit the exhibit which was found to be not "obscene," the element of clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule is lacking, and thus there can be no grave misconduct on the part of the CCP officials. It said that the non-establishment clause of the Constitution mandates the State to remain neutral in its acts that should neither advance nor inhibit religion.