Priest faces raps for Molo convent renovation

IMPORTANT CULTURAL PROPERTY. The convent of the century-old Molo Church is designed like a Spanish-era bahay na bato. Its renovation must have the approval of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. IAN PAUL CORDERO/PN

ILOILO City – The Sangguniang Panlungsod’s (SP) committee on tourism and cultural affairs has recommended the filing of charges against Monsignor Maurillo Silva, administrator of St. Anne Parish in Molo district for the unauthorized renovation of the Molo Church’s convent.

The charges could be for violation of Republic Act 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009) and the National Building Code, among others, according to the committee chaired by Councilor Candice Tupas.

The recommendation was addressed to the City Legal Office and/or the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

In July, NHCP suspended the convent’s renovation. Acting Executive Director Ludovico Badoy then asked Silva to submit a master development plan on the convent.

Article III, Section 5 of Republic Act 10066 protects important cultural properties from exportation, modification or demolition.

Badoy said the Convento de Molo may be considered an “important cultural property” because it is over 50 years old.

The SP conducted two legislative inquiries. Silva snubbed them.

The City Engineer’s Office (CEO) issued a Notice of Violation and Work Stoppage Order on July 19 stating that St. Anne Parish failed to secure a building permit for the convent’s renovation. Since Silva failed to communicate with the CEO, the matter was endorsed to the City Legal Office.

NHCP, on the other hand, held two inspections on July 16 and July 25. Though its team was not able to access the convent’s interiors, a photo showed the almost-finished renovated portion of the convent. There appeared to be an integration of new materials such as cement, and hollow blocks were used in the second floor.

There were other additions copied from the architectural features of the existing old parts of the convent, it was observed.

The NHCP technical team agreed that the architectural appearance of the Convento was not compromised but recommended that glass windows be replaced with capiz like the rest of the convent’s windows to create a harmonized appearance.

The National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 defines “important cultural property” as “cultural property having exceptional cultural, artistic and historical significance to the Philippines, as shall be determined by the National Museum and/or National Historical Institute.”

In the Philippine Catholic Church, convents are integral parts of churches. These serve as residences of parish priests and administrative offices of the parish. But while the Molo Church was very old (built in 1831), its convent – designed like a Spanish-era bahay na bato – was erected much later.

In the NHCP Cease and Desist Order, Badoy stated that the destruction, demolition, mutilation, damage, modification or alteration of important cultural properties, world heritage sites, national cultural treasures, and archaeological and anthropological sites is punishable under Article XIII, section 48 and 49 of the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009./PN


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