Editor’s Note: This story was first published by Newsbreak
MANILA, Philippines – It was only during the Aquino administration that the National Artist awards was free of controversies, several artists saidon Monday, August 10.
“Kay President Cory lang walang dagdag-bawas (padding and shaving),” said Film Academy of the Philippines director-general Leo Martinez in apress conference at the House of Representatives.
A big group of Filipino artists, which includes National Artists, hascalled for a congressional probe into the controversy involving President Arroyo’s awardees for 2009.
The artists have assailed President Arroyo for “abusing herpresidential prerogative” after she bypassed the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) when she conferred awards to four artists who were not included in the short list given to Malacañang.
The four questionable awardees are filmmaker Carlo Magno Jose J. Caparas, theatre stalwart Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, architect Francisco“Bobby” Mañosa, and fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno.
Of the four, the choices of Caparas and Alvarez are the more controversial ones. Caparas was earlier rejected by the selection committee, said Martinez, who participated in the initial selectionstage.
The award puts Caparas in the same league with internationally renowned filmmakers, the late Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal.
“We are talking about a body of work, not about which films are the highest grossers. Pagandahan po ito. Walang ibang konsiderasyon,”Martinez said.
As a member of the selection committee, artists said Alvarez is also disqualified to receive the award. She is NCCA executive director. Alvarez has denied she took part in the selection process.
“The National Artist award is an award given by artists to fellow artists,” said film director Carlos Siguion Reyna. He said it is only”polite” and “diplomatic” for Malacañang to abide by the decision ofalmost 100 artists who participated in the selection process.
Three others who were conferred awards went through the selection process of the CCP and the NCCA: filmmaker Manuel Urbano (aka Manuel Conde), visual artist Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, and novelist Lazaro Francisco.
Other presidents, too
Before President Arroyo, former Presidents Ferdinand Marcos, Fidel Ramos, and Joseph Estrada also modified the recommendations of the appropriate agencies, the artists said.
The National Artist Award was established in 1972 through President Marcos’ Proclamation 1001. The CCP, and lately, the NCCA are mandated to submit a short list for the President’s approval.
But no president has “abused” the prerogative as much as President Arroyo, according to Dennis Marasigan of the International Institute for Film and Arts.
Presidents Marcos, Ramos, and Estrada each conferred one National Artist Award to an artist not recommended by the CCP and NCCA.
The three presidents conferred the award to Carlos Romulo (Literature), Carlos Quirino (historical literature), and Ernani Cuenco (Music), respectively. Ramos even created a new category for Quirino.
President Arroyo, on the other hand, has inserted a total of seven names.
Previously, President Arroyo also conferred the National Artist award to writer Alejandro Roces, Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, and visual artist Adulmari Imao.
Taxpayers’ money involved
“This is a public issue. Taxpayers’ money is involved,” said Elmar Ingles, an NCCA Commissioner.
The awardees receive a lumpsum of P100,000 and a monthly pension of P24,000. They are also qualified to receive the P1 million grant fortheir works.
“Inuubos ang pera ng NCCA to support undeserving national artists,” Ingles added.
On Monday, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, together with other artists, have called for a probe into the controversy.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño and Kabataan Rep. Ramon Palatino filed House Resolution 1309 “directing the House committee on basic education and culture to conduct an inquiry into the controversy surrounding the National Artist Awards.”
Lumbera said the CCP is also mulling a court injunction against the conferment of the award to the four questionable recipients.
Although President Arroyo has issued a proclamation order declaring all seven as National Artists, the awarding ceremony has not yet been held. – Rappler.com