Lawyer answers questions on Botong’s ‘Camote Diggers’
On July 7, Ambeth R. Ocampo wrote an article, “Botong’s ‘Camote Diggers’ — ethical questions waiting for answers.”
He poses two questions that I can answer, as the lawyer representing the Francisco family:
1) “Why his client did not raise the question of ownership during the 15 years ‘Camote Diggers’ was publicly displayed at the Yuchengco Museum, its ownership clearly stated in recent books and exhibition catalogs on the artist.”
According to my clients, they did write to Yuchengco Gallery but did not get a reply.
2) “If it is true that he demanded P5 million from the auction house and the seller to settle the issue, and this sum was not for his client, the Francisco family, but for some foundation.”
No, this is not true. The truth is that Mr. Ponce De Leon contacted me on the eve of the auction and told me that the consignor, whom he refused to name, was offering to make a donation to a foundation of the family’s choice, in order to appease the family and buy peace. However, they would not give an amount. I gave the figure Five Million Pesos (P5,000,000.00) just to give a figure, and the condition that the buyer would need to loan the painting to Malacañang. After this, Mr. Ponce De Leon informed me that the consignor would just withdraw the painting from the auction.
I took him at his word and informed my clients that the painting would be withdrawn from the auction. However, the consignor still included the painting in the auction.
I hope these answers lessen the questions surrounding the painting. The family never claimed the painting, and just want it back in Malacañang where they believe it belongs.
As of now, the family is satisfied that the National Commission for Culture and the Arts is going to investigate the matter and ensure the preservation of the painting.
The family’s view that the painting belongs to the Filipino people, rather than to the Marcoses, appears to coincide with Dr. Ocampo’s suggestion regarding legislation on the matter.
ARNEL VICTOR C. VALEÑA
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