Ellen Tordesillas

Did Aquino use his power judiciously in deleting Nora Aunor from National Artists list?

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President Aquino and his minions should not wave the legal banner about the Chief Executive’s power not to uphold the recommendation of the National Commission on Culture and Arts and the Cultural Center in conferring the National Artist awards to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts.


The issue is: did he use that power judiciously in deleting the name of movie actress Nora Aunor from the list submitted by the NCCA and CCP for the National Artist awards?

Press Secretary Herminio Coloma cited the 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court on a 2009 National Artist controversy (former NCCA Chair Cecile G. Alvarez inserted her name to the list submitted jointly by NCCA and CCP to Malacañang which Gloria Arroyo upheld) which, he said, states that the President does not have to justify his decision.

Coloma should be reminded that Aquino is not a King who reigns without accountability to the people.

The press secretary should also be reminded that Aquino won on the platform of transparency. He has time and again told the people, “Kayo ang Boss ko.” He now feels superior over his “Boss” that he does not have to explain his action?

The six new National Artists, who are chosen every three years, are : :Alice Reyes (dance), Francisco Coching (visual arts, posthumous); Cirilo Bautista (literature); Francisco Feliciano (music); Ramon Santos (Music); and Jose Maria Zaragoza (architecture, design and allied arts, posthumous).

NCCA Chair Felipe de Leon, Jr. is apparently not privy to Malacañang’s reason for excluding Aunor. “While we still need to determine the bases for Ms. Aunor’s exclusion, the commission is prepared to review the processes of proclamation and formulate policies to strengthen procedure and to ensure that the determination of who finally gets the title of National Artist is free from political influences and elements unrelated to artistic accomplishments,” he said in a statement.

Aunor, morena and small in size, broke the mestiza tradition for a movie star with her singing and acting prowess. She has given the Filipino people and the country memorable films such as the much-awarded “Himala”, “Bona”, “Flor Contemplacion Story”, “Thy Womb.”

Unconfirmed information said Malacañang was wary of proclaiming Nora Aunor National Artist, the highest national recognition given to a Filipino artist for his or her contribution to the cultural heritage of the country, because of her “morality” and previous involvement in a drug case in the United States.

The drug case was dismissed by a Los Angeles court in 2007. As to “morality”, it is not in the criteria for the selection of a National Artist.

The guidelines say “The Order of National Artists shall be given to artists who have met the following criteria:

“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; respect and esteem from peers. “

Colleagues of Aunor are aghast and furious by the Malacañang snub. Filmmaker Joel Lamangan, who directed Aunor in “The Flor Contemplacion Story,” said “Morality is not part of the criteria, it’s the body of works that matters. Not whom an artist sleeps with. Not what he or she smokes or drinks. What should be considered is the uniqueness and excellence of an artist’s works.”


Movie Director Jose Javier Reyes captured the sentiments of many with his comment: “I thought we were choosing a National Artist, not a saint.”

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