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The Archaeological Studies Program: Violating Archaeological Ethics
 
By Elson T. Elizaga
 
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The Law of the Land. Some readers might see the debate about ethics irrelevant when archaeology is not philosophy. But without consulting local archaeologists and other professionals, visiting archaeologists make observers suspect that their work has a purpose other than science. Burton's credibility as an archaeologist was the main reason she was invited to speak at the KAPI conference in October 2003; she and myself were even invited by Neri to become members of KAPI, although I'm not an archaeologist. Neri gave Burton and I membership forms.

But, strangely, Burton was excluded in the Emano-funded research. The Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) also refused to recognize a midden discovered by Burton at the Open Site. Neri saw this midden on August 5, 2003 and even took an animal bone from this site. It is only about 20 meters from the excavation of the ASP, but the report12 of the ASP states that Huluga has no midden.

The ASP also ignored the fossils and artifacts found by HCA in 2003, including the whale harpoon head, which has a National Museum accession number. Moreover, the ASP didn't ask permission from the Open Site landowners. They used Wilson Cabaluna as guide, thereby associating the ASP with illegal activity since Cabaluna is a treasure hunter.13 They miscalculated the response of the media, and were immensely surprised when asked about the project cost and archaeological code of ethics.

In the end, the ASP made the impression that though it was prepared to oppose an illegal act in the beginning, it was ready to look the other way when a huge sum of money was involved. In justifying the deal with Emano, Paz said on Channel 39 in Cagayan de Oro: “We cannot do anything anymore with the bridge because it is already finished.” This explanation is chillingly similar to the rhetoric of Emano and his supporters in 2003: “Why is the HCA complaining when the bridge is almost finished?” Roa also said, when HCA asked Emano not to sell the historical City Hall: “Why are they complaining when the mayor is only planning?”

Tambara, 25th editionUPDATE: The 25th edition of Tambara, published in 2008, contains Elson T. Elizaga's article, "The Battle for the Huluga Archaeological Site." Tambara is the journal of Ateneo de Davao University, Philippines. Read Gail Ilagan's article in Mindanews. See also the list in the National Library of the Philippines.

In other words, when a crime is being hatched, or when a crime is in progress, or when a crime has been completed, don’t call the police.14

Such thinking explains why ethics is being ignored. People who defy the law find it much easier to ignore ethics, because unlike the law, ethics has no police to enforce it. Ethics requires nothing but individual will to do good, borne out of good breeding. It’s not a set of behavior forced by fear of punishment, but respect for the needs and rights of others. Where people are ethical, people are usually law-abiding. Where people are confused about good and evil, there we find crime proliferating. In a country where law and order continue to decay, it is sad to see a group of highly educated scientists and teachers failing to demonstrate a clear understanding of right and wrong.

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12 Leee Anthony M. Neri, Victor J. Paz, Jun G. Cayron, Joy Belmonte, Emil Charles R. Robles, Andrea Malaya M. Ragrario, Michelle S. Eusebio, Vito Paolo C. Hernandez, and Anna Jane B. Carlos, “Report on the Cagayan de Oro Archaeological Project: A preliminary report submitted to the Cagayan de Oro Historical and Cultural Commission, Cagayan de Oro City”, 2004, p. 27. [Leee Anthony M. Neri is often misspelled in news articles as Lee Neri or Lee Anthony M. Neri.]

13 The midden is inside the lot of Cabaluna. Despite Burton’s request for Cabaluna to protect it, he dug an estimated 20-feet hole there instead. Cabaluna is an employee of the City Tourism Office. He served as guide to National Museum researcher Angel Bautista in 1991.

14 Archaeological sites are granted protection under Presidential Decree 374, amending Republic Act No. 4868, also known as "Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act". The Archaeological Studies Program sells booklets of this Act.