National Artist selection based on 'bias'?

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - July 13, 2012 - 12:00am

Just by the title of this piece, I am sure that some people at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts would instantly bristle at the suggestion of “bias.” But far from making any accusations, I am using the word “bias” merely to suggest that all of us regardless of our background, training and personal achievements do have inclinations and therefore biased in various ways.

Our bias may be political, religious, philosophical, gender-driven, or in some cases simply based on looks, as in there are faces we like and there are faces we don’t trust, which explains why our parents coined the term: “Antipatico” for someone unexplainably annoying at first glance. Because we are human, it is but natural to be imperfect and biased to a certain degree. Unfortunately, when our bias is coupled with power as in power to decide who is honored or rejected, our normal bias turns into a hideous monster that almost always comes back to bite us.

For many years I have distanced myself from making any comments about nominees and choices made for our National Artists. I have long believed that such a process is best left to the peers of those artists or people deemed to have good judgment and integrity. Unfortunately, just like many award giving bodies, those tasked to choose our National Artists of late have given rise to suspicion of political meddling, vendetta versus perceived “enemies,” or prejudice or being a bureaucratic bunch of old people incapable of fast tracking a nomination process.

Art, like politics, also has divisions and camps. I remember some people telling me that “Malang” the respected painter will never become National Artist because the people in power don’t like him. When I asked around, I was told that Malang was never one to party or kiss ass or be politically correct with people who mix arts with politics. On the other hand, someone more “popular” and media savvy has allegedly made it to the list because he comes from the opposing camp.

So I wonder, does it make sense to let your peers decide if you are worthy, considering the fact that your peers are also your competitors both in art and in commerce? Anyone who makes the rounds of artists’ workshops and all the galleries in town will quickly discover that artists have just as many “groups,” have just as many “hates” and enemies, the same way politicians have political opponents and political parties!

Politics is being blamed for the controversial outcome of the 2009 National Artists lineup which in turn spoiled the fun and legitimacy of being awardees for Cecile Guidote Alvarez and Carlo Caparas. If the current news clips are accurate, it seems that it was also in 2009 when one juror blocked Dolphy’s nomination because he felt that Dolphy depicted homosexuals in a demeaning manner in his movies.

I am told that the juror supports the gay agenda, which suggests that Dolphy’s rejection as a National Artist was not based on the body of work that Dolphy produced, but was based on political, gender-based bias of a juror. Ironically, the gay community should have heralded Dolphy as their first ambassador for helping bring homosexuality out in the open and successfully softening the issue by depicting homosexuals with humor.

Once again the name of Dolphy returns to haunt the awarding body, but true to form, they are slower and more bureaucratic or legalistic than the Bureau of Customs or the DENR. Funny enough, someone even suggested that the President could short cut the process and cite presidential prerogative. That is vintage “passing the buck.” Sadly, the people in Malacanang are so lousy at spotting a good opportunity, and gave the lame excuse that the President did not want to politicize the process.

Perhaps, it is time for the members of Congress to investigate, assess, review and if need be rewrite the law, reorganize the body and the process by which our National Artists are chosen because there is something seriously wrong when a Committee or a Commission can’t decide on a matter that the entire nation has already decided on. When a handful of men and women takes years to decide on a short list while the Comelec takes only a month or so to declare the President, Vice President and members of Congress, perhaps it is time to replace the system, not just the jurors.

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My friend and “comrade” Congressman Rufus Rodriguez is reportedly crafting or pushing a proposed bill that will give amnesty to illegal aliens in the Philippines, for the purpose of legitimizing their presence, as well as to pre-empt any possible corruption that may result from such a situation. I am all for an amnesty as long those who don’t take advantage of the bill are just as quickly tracked down and deported, particularly mainland Chinese illegally operating retail businesses such as stalls in Divisoria, Baclaran and hardware stores outside Metro Manila.

Comrade Rufus might also want to do something about the exorbitant fees charged on foreign spouses and children of Filipinos going in and out of the Philippines. A number of Pinoys and myself who are married to foreigners regularly shoulder these costs. We already paid a big amount for our spouses to gain permanent residency, but on top of that all the travel related “fees” amount to a lot of money for middle class people. If the good Congressman has the time, perhaps he should sit down with this unrepresented sector.

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Email: Utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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