Raise Penalty For Thieves Of Religios Icon, Solon Urged

July 28, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Jul) – Alarmed by the desecration of Catholic churches due to looting in the Philippines, Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte on Saturday said he will push for a new legislation that would raise the penalty for thieves of religious articles.

Under Villafuerte’s proposal, the punishment to be imposed for theft or robbery committed within any church, temple or public museum would be higher by two degrees than the applicable penalty for such offenses under existing law.

“The theft of religious icons, and likewise of relics and artistic works that constitute the finest expressions of our culture, traditions and way of life, arouses national indignation. This national indignation should find corresponding utterance in our criminal laws,” Villafuerte said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

“This type of larceny threatens the gains we’ve achieved in establishing our people’s links to its past. Where religious objects are stolen, it also outrages our people’s sense of the sacred and the holy,” Villafuerte said.

The theft of religious icons remains rampant in the country.

Just early this month, a life-size marble statue of San Antonio de Padua, the patron saint of lost articles, was stolen from the San Diego de Alcala Church in Valenzuela City, where the statue has been installed for more than half a century.

The missing icon was later recovered after unidentified men surrendered it to a television network in Manila.

In December last year, a 20-karat gold necklace was stolen from the statue of Saint Michael installed in a church in Argao town in Cebu province in central Philippines.

In November last year, a 30-kilo, century-old bronze bell was seized from a church in Malinta town also in Valenzuela.

In July last year, an 18th century, two-foot image of Saint Vincent Ferrer was taken from one of the oldest Catholic churches in Northern Luzon.

The figure was seized from the belfry of the Saint Vincent Ferrer Church in Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya province. The church itself is classified as “a national cultural treasure” by the National Commission for Culture and Arts.

“Our heightened sense of history and national identity has not been without adverse side effects. One of the most deplorable is the pilferage of religious icons and cultural artifacts by felons who have found a lucrative market in equally rotten traders in these objects,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte said the proposed higher penalty is justifiable on the following grounds: The unlawful taking of objects from churches, temples and museums, demonstrates a higher degree of perversity on the part of the offenders.

Churches, temples and museums are open to the public and the objects usually stolen from them are openly displayed. These places are often unguarded since strict security measures are incompatible with their very nature, not to mention that they are not financially equipped to provide an elaborate security system.

Thus, it is easier to gain access to the valuable objects in these places; and the preservation of religious and cultural heritage embodied in religious statues and cultural objects and artifacts is a matter of national and public interest.

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