MANILA (Mabuhay) – The National Commission for Culture and the Arts should revisit its rules and processes in selecting and conferring awards to avoid incidents such as the rejection by President Benigno Aquino III of Nora Aunor’s nomination as National Artist, a senator said late Tuesday.
“What I would suggest to the NCCA, kung lagi naman ganun, and then revise na lang naming yung rules kasi kung nagiging issue yun for the President and for that matter sa future President, we might as well adopt, amend our rules or change our rules,” Senator Pia Cayetano, who sits as a member of the NCCA in choosing the National Artist, told reporters.
Aquino earlier said Aunor’s name was omitted from the final list of personalities to be conferred the National Artist award because of her history with illegal substance.
The President said he does not want to give the message that using illegal drugs is acceptable. He said Aunor was convicted of illegal drug charges but the actress’ lawyer denied this.
Aunor was arrested in 2005 in Los Angeles for alleged possession of methampethamine (shabu). The charges were dropped in 2007 after the actress complied with a rehabilitation program.
But Cayetano noted that morality is not among the qualifications for National Artist so the NCCA did not take into account Aunor’s history with illegal drugs.
“The case of Nora Aunor was really taken up and I also asked the question kasi of course public knowledge naman yung history nya with drugs di ba? But we looked at the rules and the rules did not include it. Minsan may mga batas tayo na nakalagay na hindi requirement ang good moral character. Walang ganun,” she said.
“So when we were discussing it, if we follow the rules, the rules do not provide yung moral character ng tao kasama sa decision. It was a collective decision (of the NCCA) at the time, at that level that regardless of your personal feeling about her involvement in drugs, hindi kasama sa rules yun, that’s [how] the decision was made,” she added.
The criteria in selecting a National Artist are:
Living artists who are natural-born Filipino citizens at the time of nomination, as well as those who died after the establishment of the award in 1972 but were Filipino citizens at the time of their death. Filipinos who have lost and re-acquired Filipino citizenship, through dual citizenship status for at least the minimum period of five years shall be eligible for nomination.
Artists who through the content and form of their works have contributed in building a Filipino sense of nationhood.
Artists who have pioneered in a mode of creative expression or style, thus, earning distinction and making an impact on succeeding generations of artists.
Artists who have created a substantial and significant body of works and/or consistently displayed excellence in the practice of their art form thus enriching artistic expression or style.
Artists who enjoy broad acceptance through: prestigious national and/or international recognition, such as the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining, CCP Thirteen Artists Award and NCCA Alab ng Haraya; critical acclaim and/or reviews of their works; and respect and esteem from peers.
Cayetano said she does not know what will be the reaction of the NCCA on her suggestion but it is something she believes is timely.
“It [is] something I will take up with them. I don’t’ how they will react, but it is something I will say now why don’t we look at our rules and see what other guidelines we should look at. Nagiging basehan din naman ng president pagnireview yung trabaho natin,” she said.
Asked if she thinks it is better to remove the power of the President to overturn the decision of the NCCA, Cayetano said they should also look at that point as the NCCA members who select are experts on the field.
“Maganda ring issue yun, we might as well look kasi second time na ito. Inuna lang natin kung paano mahihigpitan kasi nga it doesn’t look nice na nao-overrule ngayon. In fairness naman I’m not an arts expert, but the people I sit with they are talaga, medyo mahihiya ka magsalita kasi magagaling talaga,” the senator said.
In 2009, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo included the name of film director Carlo J. Caparas for Visual Arts and Film, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez for Theater, Francisco Mañosa for Architecture, and Jose “Pitoy” Moreno for Fashion Design as among those to be conferred the National Artist Award.
This was, however, opposed as the four were not among the nominees shortlisted by the NCCA.
In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated the order of Mrs. Arroyo due to grave abuse of discretion.
The National Artist award is conferred every three years. (MNS)