MANILA, Philippines – In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has invalidated and set aside a presidential order conferring the National Artist award on 4 individuals.
The Court said that the July 2009 proclamation signed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declaring as National Artists Cecille Guidote-Alvarez, filmmaker Carlo Magno Jose Caparas, architect Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa, and fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno is “invalid” and must be “set aside.”
The conferment of the National Artist award on the 4 was suspended by the High Court in August 2009 following a petition by Virgilio Almario and Bienvenido Lumbera, who are both National Artists, and many others.
The petitioners had insisted that the award was illegal since the 4 were not among the nominees shortlisted by the National Commission on Culture and Arts and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
Arroyo completely altered the shortlist to accommodate the 4, the petitioners added. The council of experts had chosen 4 awardees for 2009—the late filmmaker Manuel Conde, writer Lazaro Francisco, musician Ramon Santos, and painter Federico Aguilar Alcuaz.
Malacañang then removed Santos from the list and inserted the 4.
The Supreme Court sided with the petitioners, saying that the government committed “grave abuse of discretion” in deciding to make the 4 National Artists, according to a Court insider.
The suspension of the conferment did not allow the 4 to enjoy the benefits of a National Artist, but the presidential proclamation made them still, technically, National Artists.
The Court’s verdict issued on Tuesday, July 16, invalidates this.
Two justices inhibited from the decision: Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo and Marvic Leonen, the same insider told Rappler. Associate Justice Arturo Brion is on leave.
The Order of National Artists is the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine music, dance, theater, visual arts, literature, film and broadcast arts, and architecture.
The awarding of the title is administered by the NCCA and the CCP, and conferred by the President. The two agencies oversee the selection process and transmit the shortlist to the President. The President then issues an executive order conferring the award on each of the artists on the shortlist.
The controversial decision of Arroyo to insert the names of the 4 in the prestigious list was dubbed “dagdag-bawas” in the country’s most prestigious cultural award.
Since the awards were created by President Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s, presidents, except for Corazon Aquino, have been guilty of adding to the shortlist of awardees artists who were not chosen by their peers in a rigorous selection process. Former President Arroyo, however, made the most controversial insertions, benefitting not just one artist at a time. – Rappler.com