MANILA — The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a proposal mandating the conservation of Gabaldon and other heritage school buildings nationwide and providing penalties for violations.
Gabaldon school buildings refer to school buildings designed by American Architect William Parsons and funded through Act No. 1801 authored by Nueva Ecija Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon during the American Period.
House Bill 5794, principally authored by Rep. Victoria Isabel G. Noel (Party-list, AN Waray), provides “it is the State policy to preserve and promote the country’s historical and cultural heritage and resources. Towards this end, the State shall strengthen its efforts and pursue a more proactive role in the conservation and restoration of built heritage such as the Gabaldon and other heritage school buildings, to preserve their architectural, historical and social significance.”
Noel said during the Commonwealth Era, the Americans introduced the public school system to the country. To meet the need for public school buildings, the Asemblea Filipina (Philippine Assembly) passed as one of its laws –Act No. 1801 authored by Nueva Ecija representative Isauro Gabaldon.
Taken from the surname of its principal advocate, Noel said the law came to be known as “The Gabaldon Act of 1907,” and all school buildings put up in the next two decades during the American Period were called “Gabaldon Schoolhouses.”
“These Gabaldon Schoolhouses have withstood the elements and until the present are still being used by public schools throughout the country. The proposal is to rehabilitate and repair them nationwide to preserve their historical significance and address the ever growing need for educational facilities,” said Noel.
House Bill 5794, or the proposed “Gabaldon and Other Heritage School Buildings Conservation Act,” provides that the Department of Education (DepEd) shall, in consultation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the National Museum (NM), implement a program for the identification and conservation of all Gabaldon and other heritage school buildings nationwide.
Under the bill, DepEd and the NCCA have to jointly make an inventory of all these heritage school buildings, whether fully functional or condemned, in all public elementary and secondary schools to determine the physical status of each structure.
School heads should submit to their respective schools division superintendent, for appropriate action, a report indicating the evidence of and structural damage to any heritage school buildings in the school under their supervision.
The local government unit (LGU) having jurisdiction over schools, where Gabaldon heritage school buildings are located, shoud likewise adopt measures for the protection and conservation of these structures and provide the DepEd the necessary assistance to implement any conservation projects.
Moreover, any modification, alteration, destruction, demolition, or relocation of these heritage school buildings shall be strictly prohibited. In cases where conservation is necessary, the DepEd with the NCCA, NHCP and NM shall provide proper technical assistance to school heads to ensure the original architectural design of the school buildings is maintained.
Subject to the issuance of permit from the NCCA, modification or alteration of the original architectural design of these heritage school buildings may be allowed in public elementary and secondary schools where the exigency of constructing new school buildings is a priority in view of the increase in student population and in anticipation of Republic Act 10533, otherwise known as the “Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013.”
The façade and/or other distinct features of the original heritage school buildings shall, in as much as possible, be retained.
The DepEd Secretary should immediately include in the agency’s program the implementation of the Act, the initial funding of which be charged to the current year’s appropriation of the DepEd. Thereafter, the funding should be included in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Any person who abet or cause the unauthorized modification, alteration, destruction, demolition and relocation of the heritage school buildings should be fined not less than Php 200,000 or imprisoned for not less than 10 years, or both, upon the discretion of the court, and shall likewise pay for the conservation of the structure.
If the violation is committed by a juridical person, its license to operate shall be revoked, and its president, manager, representative, director, agent, or employee shall also be liable for the penalties provided herein.
If the offender is an alien, the offender shall be placed under the custody of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for appropriate proceedings and shall be summarily deported after serving the applicable sentence.
Heads of schools who shall fail to report the existence of or any structural damage to any Gabaldon or other heritage school buildings in the school under their supervision shall be held administratively liable for simple neglect of duty and suspended without pay for six months.
Within 90 days from the approval of the Act, the DepEd and the NCCA, in consultation with the NHCP and NM, shall promulgate the necessary implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Act.
The proposal, which substituted House Bill 1707, is co-authored by Reps. Evelina G. Escudero (1st District, Sorsogon), Kimi S. Cojuangco (5th District, Pangasinan), Gwendolyn F. Garcia (3rd District, Cebu), Silvestre H. Bello III (Party-list, 1 BAP), Julieta R. Cortuna (Party-list, A TEACHER), Jonathan A. Dela Cruz, (Party-list, ABAKADA), Isidro T. Ungab ( 3rd District, Davao City), Leah S. Paquiz (Party-list, ANG NARS), and Sonny P. Collantes (3rd District, Batangas).