The House committee on basic education and culture has approved a substitute bill which mandates the conservation of “Gabaldon school buildings” nationwide.
The bill refers to Gabaldon school buildings as those school buildings designed by American Architect William Parsons and funded through Act No. 1801 authored by Isauro Gabaldon, a former governor of Nueva Ecija and member of the Philippine Assembly from 1907 to 1911.
The unnumbered bill substituted House Bill 139 authored by Rep. Victoria Isabel Noel (Party-list, AN WARAY) which seeks to rehabilitate and repair the Gabaldon schoolhouses and other heritage school buildings nationwide to preserve their historical significance as well as address the ever-growing need for educational facilities.
Noel explained Act No. 18001 was one of the first laws passed by the Asamblea Filipina (Philippine Assembly) to meet the need for public school buildings.
“Taken from the surname of its principal advocate, it came to be known as the Gabaldon Act of 1907, and all the school buildings built in the next two decades during the American period were called Gabaldon Schoolhouses,” said Noel.
The bill mandates the Department of Education (DepEd), in consultation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), and the National Museum (NM) to implement a program for the identification and conservation of all Gabaldon school buildings nationwide.
Likewise, the DepEd and the NCCA shall jointly undertake an inventory of all Gabaldon school buildings, whether fully functional or condemned, in all public elementary and secondary schools to determine the physical status of each structure.
School heads, on the other hand, shall submit to their respective School Division Superintendents, for appropriate action, a report indicating the existence of or any structural damage to any Gabaldon school building in schools under their respective supervisions.
For their part, local government units (LGUs) that have Gabaldon school buildings under their jurisdiction shall likewise adopt measures for the protection and conservation of these structures and shall provide the DepEd with the necessary assistance in the implementation of any conservation project.
The measure strictly prohibits any modification, alteration, destruction, demolition, or relocation of Gabaldon school buildings.
It tasks the DepEd, in coordination with the NCCA, NHCP, and the NM to provide proper technical assistance to school heads to ensure the original architectural design of the school building is maintained in cases where conservation measures are necessary.
However, subject to the issuance of a permit from the NCCA, any modification or alteration of the original architectural design of Gabaldon school buildings may be allowed in public elementary and secondary schools where the exigency of constructing new school buildings is a priority in anticipation of the increase in student population by virtue of the implementation of Republic Act No. 10533, or the “Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013”.
Any person who shall abet or cause the unauthorized modification, alteration, destruction, demolition, or relocation of the Gabaldon school buildings shall be penalized with a fine of not less than P200,000 or imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years, or both, upon the discretion of the Court, and shall likewise pay for the conservation of the structure.
School heads who fail to submit a report to their respective School Division Superintendents on the existence of or any structural damage to any Gabaldon school buildings in schools under their respective supervisions shall be held administratively liable for simple neglect of duty and shall be suspended for a period of six months.
The DepEd Secretary shall immediately include in the Department’s program the implementation of the Act, the initial funding of which shall be charged to the current year’s appropriations of the DepEd. The amount necessary for the continued implementation of the Act shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.
The bill is also authored by Reps. Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin), Ramon Durano VI (5th District, Cebu), Evelina Escudero (1st District, Sorsogon), Christopher De Venecia (4th District, Pangasinan), Len Alonte-Naguiat (Lone District, Biñan City), Jose Christopher Belmonte (6th District, Quezon City), Deogracias Victor Savellano (1st District, Ilocos Sur), Sandra Eriguel (2nd District, La Union), Pablo Ortega (1st District, La Union), Anna Katrina Enverga (1st District, Quezon), Lianda Bolilia (4th District, Batangas), Rossana Vergara (3rd District, Nueva Ecija), Ron Salo (Party-list, KABAYAN), Mark Go (Lone District, Baguio City), Cecilia Leonila Chavez (Party-list, BUTIL), Maria Lloren Cuaresma (Lone District, Nueva Vizcaya), Divina Grace Yu (1st District, Zamboanga del Sur), Vilma Santos-Recto (6th District, Batangas), Glona Labadlabad (2nd District, Zamboanga del Norte), Ana Cristina Go (2nd District, Isabela), Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City) and Joey Salceda (2nd District, Albay).
Other authors are Reps. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo (1st District, Lanao del Norte), Raul Del Mar (1st District, Cebu City), Celso Lobregat (1st District, Zamboanga City), Leopoldo Bataoil (2nd District, Pangasinan), Estrellita Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija), Arthur Defensor Jr. (3rd District, Iloilo), Francis Gerald Abaya (1st District, Cavite), Arlene Arcillas (1st District, Laguna), Jose Tejada (3rd District, North Cotabato), Raul Tupas (5th District, Iloilo), Cheryl Deloso-Montalla (2nd District, Zambales), Wilfredo Caminero (2nd District, Cebu), Harry Roque Jr. (Party-list, KABAYAN), Rogelio Neil Pepito Roque (4th District, Bukidnon), Isagani Amatong (3rd District, Zamboanga del Norte), Fernando Gonzalez (3rd District, Albay), Gil Acosta (3rd District, Palawan), Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado (1st District, Bulacan), Manuel Jose Dalipe (2nd District, Zamboanga City), Jose Carlos Cari (5th District, Leyte), Mercedes Cagas (Lone District, Davao del Sur) and Allen Jesse Mangaoang (Kalinga).