Leon Gallery owner and director Jaime Ponce de Leon formally declined the government’s request to stop the sale of a number of revolutionary documents slated to be auctioned this Saturday.
Among them are two historical documents with the signatures of Andres Bonifacio, the Acta de Tejeros and the Acta de Naic or Naik. The century-old documents chronicle Bonifacio’s protest of Emilio Aguinaldo’s move to oust him. They give a picture of the tempestuous birth of our nation. The two documents have a starting bid of a million pesos each.
In a letter to Ponce de Leon, dated November 27, National Historical Commission of the Philippines acting Executive Director Ludovico Badoy asked that Leon Gallery hold off the sale so government itself can buy the items.
But Congress, Badoy said, had to be given the time to include funding for the acquisition under its 2019 budget.
Badoy cited the law, specifically Republic Act 10086 or the NHCP Charter, “which empowers the agency to acquire important historical documents, collections, memorabilia and other objects that have significant historical value.”
In a strongly worded reply, Ponce de Leon protested the confiscatory nature of the citation of the law: “Our counsels believe that the validity of (the) Philippine Cultural Heritage Act may be questionable for as an undue taking of property without just compensation.”
Ponce de Leon said, “We must (however) decline to exclude certain memorabilia from our auctions for an undetermined period of time for the following reasons: we were not given adequate notice of these memorabilia being cultural properties nor the need of registration (we submit that notice is a basic requirement of due process.)”
De Leon also reiterated that “Leon Gallery complies with all laws, rules, and regulations. We also endeavor to work with the appropriate cultural agencies not only to preserve our cultural heritage but also to promote Philippine culture.”
Ponce de Leon further cautioned Badoy against filing any action for injunction or a restraining order, “because of the great prejudice not only to our consignors but also to our auction house. We shall not hesitate to seek compensation for such prejudice.”
Badoy, in his letter appeal cited the intent of the law: “This is premised on the notion that our country’s important historical documents and objects rightly belong to all the people, through the safekeeping and custody of the national cultural agencies, such as the NHCP.”
Ponce De Leon said it was unclear to him which government agencies had jurisdiction over “cultural properties.” In his letter, he cited, “ the law creates a confusing situation between the cultural agencies as to who will claim jurisdiction over a particular cultural property; there has been no actual declaration of the items as cultural properties; we submit that the jurisdiction of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines only covers works of National Heroes of which only the Acta de Tejeros and the Acta de Naik would arguably be considered as such; we are acting as an auction house not a dealer as is defined in the National Cultural Heritage Act; the seller is actually the consignor; the withdrawal of the lots would cause undue prejudice to the consignors.”