#TalkThursday: Nora Aunor for National Artist?

Rappler talks to National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera on the recent announcement of the country’s newest National Artists

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler talks to National Artist for Literature Bienvenido “Bien” Lumbera on the recent announcement of the country’s newest National Artists, and the exclusion of actress Nora Aunor from the honor.

On June 20, President Benigno Aquino III signed the proclamation naming the latest National Artists. Though part of the shortlist of nominees submitted to the President, Aunor was not in the final roster. Aquino has not issued any statement on why the legendary actress was left out but netizens and fans are speculating that her previous run-in with the law might have been a factor. (READ: New set of National Artists revealed, Nora Aunor not part of list)

Aunor, a multi-awarded actress, has appeared in iconic Filipino films such as Bona (1981), Himala (1982), The Flor Contemplacion Story (1995), and more recently, Thy Womb (2012). Her stellar career in Philippine cinema, however, was marred by a drug case in 2005, when she was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport for alleged possession of drug paraphernalia and illegal drugs eventually identified as methamphetamine. The actress was eventually cleared in 2007, after she went through a rehabilitation program, and after her drug test came out negative.

The Order of National Artists is the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts. The list of nominees is prepared by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The title of National Artist is conferred by the President upon the recommendation of both institutions.

Many have spoken out in anger over the “snub” of Aunor, among them, NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon Jr, and National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, one of the country’s most prolific authors. (READ: NCCA puzzled by exclusion of Nora Aunor in National Artists list)

Lumbera, chairman of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), has also expressed dismay over Aunor’s situation and the lack of an explanation from Malacañang. He encourages other National Artists to protest the move.

Watch the discussion with Lumbera below.


 Below is a statement on the issue from the spokesperson of CAP, visual artist Renan Ortiz:

“PNoy’s exclusion of Nora Aunor, who has been recommended by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), is arrogant, elitist and dangerous. It is arrogant because it shows that the President can arbitrarily overturn the results of a duly-constituted deliberation process. It is elitist because it further holds the National Artists Award (NAA) hostage to the whims of the President and patronage politics. And it is dangerous because it is an abuse of power, which is happening with increasing impunity under the current administration.

The provisions which invest the President with the authority to overturn NAA recommendations yielded by the CCP and NCCA deliberations should be examined and scrapped once and for all. These are among the many legal loopholes that reinforce the culture of corruption which has permeated and adversely affected Philippine institutions. The prerogative also carried with it the responsibility to decide based on due process and justice, which we cannot entrust corrupt administrations to uphold.

Walang himala sa panghihimasok ni PNoy sa NAA. (There is no miracle in PNoy’s interfering with the NAA). The blatant abuse of Presidential prerogative has spawned many ‘dagdag-bawas’ controversies in the NAA for the past 30 years. President Marcos intervened in the 1982 selection process; Ramos cerated a new category (historical literature) to accommodate his choice in 1997; Estrada appointed a friend in 1999; and Arroyo has repeatedly conferred the award to individuals not included in the NCCA-CCP shortlist, culminating in a major controversy in 2009. PNoy’s actions are no different from that of his predecessors like Arroyo. These actions are eroding public faith in the process and devaluing the importance that the NAA should have for the Filipino people.

The current public and critical outrage over Aunor’s exclusion is not surprising, nor should it be dismissed as sour-graping. Aunor’s critically-acclaimed work as an actress has yielded some of the most important moments in Philippine film history, which constitute our heritage. The masses look up to Aunor because her performances are not only stellar; they have also embodied various social realities and experiences of the people long marginalized by an elite few.

Corruption takes many forms. It is not only an issue of PDAF and pork barrel allocations. It is also accommodating the whims of KKK (kaibigan, kakilala, at kapamilya) (friend, acquaintance, relative) and putting arbitrary personal interests over due process and the clamor of the people. – Rappler.com

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