National artist selection scored
- Rhodina Villanueva () - August 5, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Officers of the Cultural Center of the Philippines deplored yesterday the selection of seven National Artists, saying it disregarded the traditional long and stringent selection process carried out by the CCP and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

Emily Abrera, chair of the CCP Board of Trustees, read a statement on the position of the CCP on the controversy.

“Throughout the history of the National Artist Awards, Presidents of the Philippines have exercised the privilege of adding their choices to the final list of National Artist Awardees. And they have done so.

But never was there an instance when the name of a person deemed truly deserving and who went through the rigorous process of selection, was struck off the list,” the CCP Board of Trustees’ statement read.

“While we respect the President’s prerogative to name her choices, we deplore the disregard of the established process whereby our National Artists are chosen. It was reported in the media (through Secretary Gabriel Claudio) that the President’s choices were a product of thorough consultations with the NCCA and CCP. We wish to clarify that we were never consulted about these final choices, nor have we been officially informed about them, to this day,” Abrera said.


CCP trustee and acclaimed director Behn Cervantes referred to the “dagdag-bawas” (vote padding and shaving) operation of Malacañang Palace as it disregarded the list of awardees for National Artist submitted by the Boards of CCP and NCCA.

“This dagdag-bawas of the Palace insults all Filipino artists – living and dead. It is an audacious act that turns the National Artist Award into a political achievement rather than an artistic accomplishment. I am not only disappointed in this insensitive presidential act. I am very angry at President Gloria Arroyo for this mindless slap on the Filipino artists,” he said in a statement.

There were 87 nominees for the National Artist Awards this year, which was cut down to 32 after the first deliberation. A shortlist of 13 nominees was decided in the second deliberation. From this list, the boards of the CCP and NCCA, together with previous National Artist awardees, deliberated and chose four names.

On May 6, 2009, the Boards of the CCP and the NCCA submitted the final list of recommended awardees to Malacañang for confirmation, proclamation and conferral. These were Ramon Santos for Music, Lazaro Francisco for Literature, Manuel Conde for Film and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz for Visual Arts.

However, on July 29, 2009, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced that the President had named seven new National Artists.

These are Carlo Caparas, Pitoy Moreno, Cecille Guidote Alvarez,

Francisco Mañosa, Lazaro Francisco, Manuel Conde and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz.

Of these seven, only Francisco, Conde and Alcuaz were the boards’ original choices. Santos has been dropped from the list.

“She (President Arroyo) tolerated the inclusion of Carlo J. Caparas, a film director best known for gory, massacre films. Is he in the same class as Gerry de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal or Eddie Romero? Can he artistically be talked about in the same breath as Manuel Conde?” Cervantes, said.


He stressed that the announcement of Alvarez as National Artist for Theater shocked them.

“She (Alvarez) had not even been nominated and did not go through the selection process. She was a significant part of (the selection process) as head of the NCCA,” Cervantes said.

He said Alvarez should have vehemently persuaded the President not to include her if she were a true artist sensitive to the feelings of fellow artists.

As to Santos being crossed out of the list, Cervantes said he had been highly recommended by his peers for his talent, body of work, musical respect and creative integrity as teacher and artist.

Legal remedy

Lawyer Lorna Kapunan, who is also a CCP board member, said that there is a legal remedy in this case and that is by filing an injunction before the Supreme Court, pointing out that “the President has no prerogative concerning the National Artist Awards.”

Kapunan said, “The law is clear as to the CCP Board administering the National Artists Award. It is a power given to the CCP Board.”

She pointed out that the Implementing Ruls and Regulations (IRR) on the National Artist Awards states that “the list of awardees shall be submitted to the President of the Republic of the Philippines for confirmation, proclamation and conferral,” and that nowhere does it talk about presidential prerogatives.

Abrera clarified that at the moment, the CCP cannot take any action because it has not officially been informed about the proclamation of the awards. In the past, she explained, Malacañang issues the official proclamation, transmits it to the CCP, which will then issue press releases to announce the new National Artists. This was done for all previous awards, even the 2003 and 2006 awards under the Arroyo administration. 

Cervantes said a protest action against the choices for National Artist awardees made by the President will be staged on Friday at 2 p.m. in front of the CCP building, to be led by several living National Artists, including Salvador Bernal, F. ionil Jose and Bienvenido Lumbera, who were present at the press conference. All concerned artists and art advocates are invited to to participate and show their resistance against Malacanang’s action.

UP also up in arms

UP Arts and Letters Dean Flora Elena Mirano also decried the alleged “padding and shaving” in the list of nominees.

Mirano, who issued the statement in consultation with department chairpersons and faculty members, said that in a list published in newspapers last June, four names of nominees, Alcuaz, Conde, Francisco and Santos, were submitted by the CCP and the NCCA search committee.

However, a month later, four more names of nominees came up in the list of Malacañang, according to Mirano.

The name of Santos, a revered composer and musicologist, was no longer in the roster, she said.

The UP College of Arts and Letters also questioned President Arroyo’s decision to bestow the National Artist Award to Alvarez.

Mirano said giving the award to Alvarez while she is an NCCA official is an “immoral situation” and a “violation of the rules of due process” in the selection for National Artist.

Some sectors also assailed the naming of filmmaker Caparas as national artist on grounds that his nomination was twice rejected by two NCAA panels, and that the title given to Caparas “appeared to have duplicated” that of Conde.

The UP College of Arts and Letters has produced the following National Artists: Virgilio Almario, Bienvenido Lumbera, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Eddie Romero, Wilfrido Maria Guerrero, Rolando Tinio, Amado V. Hernandez, Francisco Arcellana, NVM Gonzalez, and Jose Garcia Villa, among others.

 ‘GMA followed process’

At Malacañang, Secretary to the Cabinet Silvestre Bello III said yesterday President Arroyo followed the process in naming this year’s national artists.

However, the Palace is open to a consultation with the sectors protesting Mrs. Arroyo’s choices, he added.

Bello said Alvarez was not nominated by the NCCA but by other artist groups, which he could not name.

Mrs. Arroyo was not confined to the list of nominees coming from the NCCA and the CCP, he added.

Bello said that the qualifications of Alvarez and Caparas should not be questioned because they contributed a lot to their respective fields.

“The recommendations are not exclusive to NCCA,” he said. “I am sure the President was consulted or advised by several artist groups.”

Bello said some consultation to settle the issues could be done because of the strong protests coming from members of the selection committee and other national artists.

“If there is a very strong objection about the nomination of Ms. Guidote-Alvarez it will not be a bad idea to come up with a consultation to address the objection,” he said.

“But whether we will withdraw her designation is another thing. We cannot deny she is a very talented artist. She used to head PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association).” — Katherine Adraneda, Marvin Sy

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