Five National Artist awardees led a petition to the Supreme Court yesterday, August 19, to stop Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo from conferring the National Artist awards to four of this year's seven nominees, who did not pass through the strict selection process required by law to earn the high artistic merit, as reported by GMANews.TV.
The five National Artists who filed the petition were Bienvenido Lumbera (literature), Virgilio Almario (literature), Benedicto Cabrera (visual arts), Napoleon Abueva (visual arts), and Arturo Luz (visual arts). Supporting them were the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, 66 other private individuals, lawyers, and university professors.
In a 38-page petition, the group asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (or status quo order) to stop Malacañang from giving the awards to Carlo J. Caparas (film and visual arts), Cecile Guidote Alvarez (theater), Jose "Pitoy" Moreno (fashion design), and Francisco "Bobby" Mañosa (architecture).These four were among the seven new National Artists that the President picked on July 29.
The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) jointly administer the awards. The two institutions decide who would be given the distinction through a rigorous screening process spanning three years.
The CCP and the NCCA then recommends the selected names to the President for confirmation, proclamation, and conferral.
Upon conferment, National Artist awardees become eligible to a cash award of up to 100,000 pesos at the time of conferment, a monthly life pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, life insurance coverage, and arrangements for a state funeral.
"DAGDAG-BAWAS." According to the petitioners, Arroyo committed "grave abuse of discretion" when she added the new names to the already existing list. Malacañang, however, continues to emphasize the President's "prerogative" in composing her own list of awardees.
Previous cases in past administrations had asserted this prerogative. In 1997, then President Fidel V. Ramos added Carlos Quirino (historical literature). Former President Joseph Estrada added Hernani Cuenco (music) two years later.
This year, Arroyo proclaimed only three of the four names recommended by the selection committee—Lazaro Francisco (literature), Manuel Conde (film), and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (visual arts)—to accommodate her four choices.
Ramon Santos (music), a Filipino composer whose works have been performed in major music festivals around the world, had been dropped from the list.
Santos, who received the highest votes from the selection committee, has not released any statement about the issue. Reports said that he underwent an 11-hour delicate heart surgery in the Philippine Heart Center on August 13 for suspected aneurysm.
WHO IS QUALIFIED? The petitioners also criticized the nomination of Alvarez and Caparas, citing several irregularities.
They pointed out that Alvarez currently sits as the NCCA's executive director and as presidential adviser on culture. Alvarez also heads the NCCA secretariat that receives nominations for national artists.
The guideline for the selection of National Artists automatically disqualifies NCCA and CCP board members and consultants from nominations.