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The Archaeological Studies Program: Violating Archaeological Ethics
By Elson T. Elizaga. Published January 2007. Updated September 16, 2018. Footnote 17 added to page 7 on August 10, 2023.
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Clyde Jagoon, Leee Anthony Neri and Dr. Erlinda Burton at the Huluga settlement site on August 5, 2003
Dr. Erlinda M. Burton (right) at the Huluga settlement site on August 5, 2003. Burton and the late Dr. Robert Fox stressed the need for Philippine archaeologists to follow a code of ethics.

Should government archaeologists accept money from people who have destroyed archaeological sites? Should they prevent local archaeologists from participating in research? Should they ignore artifacts and fossils found by local archaeologists? Should they ignore middens? Whatever your answers to these questions, you might be interested to read on. This is a narrative of how government archaeologists made a fake science report to please a politician:

Many people in the Philippines were alarmed when news about the damage of the Huluga archaeological site in Cagayan de Oro came out in June 2003. Anthropologists were exchanging information about it for days, sending emails and text messages. "Huluga" became a buzzword, and members of the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA) were invited to speak in several gatherings. The counter of the HCA website also made a steep rise, as people from different countries read the pages.

This exchange of information led to calls for Cagayan de Oro mayor Vicente Yap Emano -- the person responsible for the damage on Huluga -- to stop the destruction. The Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) of the University of the Philippines issued a manifesto that partly said, “we … strongly support the call of the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA) and all concerned sectors in Cagayan de Oro City to stop further destruction of the Huluga Open Site …”. The manifesto also asked government agencies “to stop the construction of the bridge …”

In similar manner, The Katipunan Arkaeologist ng Pilipinas, Inc. (KAPI) wrote an open letter to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, appealing for “her intercession in behalf of the Filipino people and the Cagayanons in particular for the preservation of our cultural heritage.” The National Museum also sent archaeologists Leee Anthony Neri and Clyde Jagoon to Huluga to assess the damage, and National Museum lawyer Trixie Angeles met with HCA members and expressed interest to file a case against Emano. She even suggested that the 4th Infantry Division be asked to guard Huluga. [Leee Anthony Neri is often misspelled in news articles as Lee Anthony Neri or Lee Neri.]

This apparent unity of archaeologists and other concerned people in the Philippines continued until October 2003, when KAPI asked HCA president and archaeologist Dr. Erlinda M. Burton to give a presentation about Huluga during its 4th annual conference in La Mesa Dam Conference Hall, Quezon City. In that meeting, which I attended, National Museum director Cora Alvina responded to Burton’s presentation by expressing her support for HCA. “We are with you,” Alvina said twice during her speech, looking at Burton. Alvina also said the National Museum was preparing a case against Emano.1

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1 Alvina wasn’t ready to go public about her statement, however. After her speech, she left the venue immediately. I followed her on her exit and asked if she could tell Susan Palmes of DxJR in Cagayan de Oro regarding the National Museum plan to file a case. I offered to call Palmes with my cellphone, but Alvina refused, explaining that the National Museum lawyer would be the best person to talk about the subject.


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