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The Archaeological Studies Program: Violating Archaeological Ethics
 
By Elson T. Elizaga
 
 
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The Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) and the National Museum. In the months that followed, Burton and the rest of the HCA would be stunned to discover that the National Museum, instead of filing a case against Emano, had approved a P450, 000 contract 5 between the ASP and the City Hall for the ASP to do a two-week salvage archaeology in Huluga and two other sites in Cagayan de Oro.

The amount appeared to be extraordinarily high: In 2003, at the Huluga Open Site, Neri told Lourd Ostique of Museo de Oro at Xavier University and I that a digging in Huluga alone would require only P80, 000 for the same duration.

A more startling development: On October 29, 2004, one year after the inauguration of the illegal road-and-bridge construction that partially destroyed the Huluga Open Site, a team from the ASP led by its director, Dr. Victor Paz, gave Burton a visit in her office at RIMCU. Paz told Burton that they had began digging on Obsidian Hill.6 Burton couldn’t believe her ears. They did not even ask Burton to be part of the project, nor consulted her about it, during and prior to that visit.

Paz also told Burton that he had to obey a contract that he had signed with Emano. I discovered later that the contract was not notarized that day. A lady staff member from the Historical and Cultural Commission (HISCCOM) of the City Hall, responding to Susan Palmes of radio station DxJR,7 who was asking for a copy of the contract, said on air on November 2 that the contract could not yet be released to the public because "wala pa man ni na notarize."

Palmes, a law student, naturally raised an obvious concern: Speaking in Cebuano, she said, “So, why is the ASP digging already?”

Even more astounding: When I learned about Paz’s visit, I called up the two landowners of Obsidian Hill and asked if they knew about the digging. They said no. The landowners, who requested anonymity, consequently went to Obsidian Hill on November 2 and 6 separately and talked with the diggers. One8 was very upset: "Why did you not consult us? We are all professionals here. I'm a professional, too. Why did you not inform my family about this digging?"

The angry landowner said Agnes Paulita Roa (aka Nanette Roa) of HISCCOM and a National Museum representative who came with the ASP apologized and promised to return the soil when the project would be finished on November 14. The landowner told me: "Next time, we will not allow them to dig in our lot."

A few days later, Mindanao Goldstar Daily and Mindanews published my article “Parachute Archaeologists”, which was about the ASP and its excavation. In this write-up, I quoted Burton, who said that Paz and his team violated the "universal" Code of Ethics of Archaeology when Paz signed a contract with Emano to do archaeological digging in Cagayan de Oro without consulting her.

Goldstar also reported HCA lawyer Manuel Ravanera, who said HCA was planning to slap charges against Emano and the archaeologists of the ASP. Ravanera said nobody should have been allowed to touch Huluga since there was a pending case filed by the City Hall on this matter. 9 "They (city hall) should not have commissioned anyone to do any archeological digging until such case is resolved," Ravanera said.

On November 11, 2004, the ASP held a press conference at the Philippine Information Agency in Cagayan de Oro about their findings in Huluga and two other sites. Several journalists, among them Palmes, asked them about Burton’s concern about ethics. Dr. Eusebio Dizon of the National Museum responded by saying "there is no such thing as a universal Code of Ethics for Archaeologists -- none whatsoever in the archaeological world".10 DxJR also reported an unnamed ASP archaeologist during that press conference who said, "We don't follow any code of ethics. We just follow the law of the land.”

Montalvan also recalls: " In the Channel 39 interview, both Paz and Dizon said, when asked why they did not coordinate with Burton, that Burton's style of archaeology was outdated, or words to that effect. I remember this very well. This was unethical too, aside from being arrogant. It is almost badmouthing a peer in the profession, and in media at that."

Montalvan also questions ASP's coordination with Roa:

"When the protracted Huluga debacle took place, Nanette [Roa] was just a member of the HISCCOM, receiving an honorarium of a little over a thousand pesos a month. Today she is the manager of the Lawndale resort [renamed Kagay-an Resort] which, ironically, is just the next-door neighbor of the destroyed Huluga Open Site.

"If you look at the timing, it would appear that her appointment was a reward for defending Emano to the hilt. She did not lift a finger to defend the destruction of the Open Site. In fact, she and Teddy Bautista DENIED that there ever was a destruction.

"These things have to be laid out in the open for it was Nanette who almost was the apologist for the Paz-Dizon group. That is another ethical question. They refused to coordinate with Burton but they had no qualms believing the words of a charlatan."

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RELATED

The National Museum of the Philippines is mentioned in Bryan Christy's "Ivory Worship", published in National Geographic, October 2012. Excerpt:

"I had no illusions of linking Monsignor Garcia to any illegal activity, but when I told him I wanted an ivory Santo Niño, the man surprised me. 'You will have to smuggle it to get it into the U.S.'

"'How?'

"'Wrap it in old, stinky underwear and pour ketchup on it,' he said. 'So it looks shitty with blood. This is how it is done.'

"Garcia gave me the names of his favorite ivory carvers, all in Manila, along with advice on whom to go to for high volume, whose wife overcharges, who doesn’t meet deadlines. He gave me phone numbers and locations. If I wanted to smuggle an icon that was too large to hide in my suitcase, I might get a certificate from the National Museum of the Philippines declaring my image to be antique ...."
 
 
 

5 City Ordinance 9348-2004 appropriated P450,000 to the team of the Archaeological Studies Program. The title of the ordinance is "AN ORDINANCE REVERTING THE SUM OF P450,000 FROM THE 'SPECIAL PROJECT: POVERTY REDUCTION EFFORT FOR CAGAYAN DE ORO RESETTLEMENT AREAS' IN THE 2004 ANNUAL BUDGET OF THE CITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT OFFICE ...". A City Hall insider, however, gave the following information:

  • P450,000 for five senior archaeologists
  • P100,000 plus to two junior archaeologists
  • P66,000 for airfare of 11 persons
  • P84,000 per diem of seven people for 15 days

6 The Western section of the split Open Site. Because of the presence of obsidian flakes there, and for easy reference, I made a suggestion to some HCA members that we call the place Obsidian Hill. Several journalists, the EMB, and the ASP later used this name.

7 After four years of operation, this station of Cagayan de Oro College was closed in February 2006. An insider said the new school managers were afraid of Emano. The station made reports and commentaries about City Hall anomalies. It has been reopened in 2007 and renamed COCTV.

8 One of the landowners was a licensed geodetic engineer. The other was a business person, who was elected city councilor of Cagayan de Oro in 2013 and 2016.

9 After EMB-Region 10 decided in favor of HCA on DENR-EMB Case No. 03-0074, City Hall elevated the case to the EMB head office in Manila. In August 2005, I wrote an email to EMB-Manila, asking for the status of the case. The office didn’t reply. As of this writing, EMB-Manila has not settled the case.

10 The Mindanao Goldstar Daily, Nov. 12, 2004.

 
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Page published January 24, 2011. Revised February 5, 2011.
 
© Elson T. Elizaga