MANILA, Philippines - Should a person convicted of a drug offense be honored as a National Artist?
President Aquino is reportedly pondering this in the case of film superstar Nora Aunor, who was arrested for shabu possession in 2005 in the United States. She evaded imprisonment by undergoing a six-month drug rehabilitation program.
Aunor is one of six individuals endorsed for National Artist in October last year by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
The controversy over Aunor, however, has reportedly delayed the official proclamation.
Netizens are urging the President to confer the honor on the actress.
“This is taking longer than the time needed by the NCCA and CCP to process the nominations,” read the Change.org petition, which has over 1,990 supporters as of yesterday and was started by the Nora Aunor for National Artist Movement.
The NCCA and CCP have recommended the proclamation as National Artist of Aunor for film, Alice Reyes for dance, Francisco Feliciano for music, Francisco Coching for visual arts, Cirilo Bautista for literature and Jose Ma. Zaragoza for architecture.
Change.org noted that the NCCA and CCP represent the artistic community, and “have the legal mandate to administer the selection of nominees for National Artists.”
“If you (Aquino) are taking so long to review what the NCCA and CCP have done, does this mean that you do not trust these institutions in the recommendations they have made?” the petition said.
“Do you think their process is not credible enough to warrant your confidence? Is there anything that’s yet to be done in the vetting process to make the endorsements more acceptable and convincing? Is this something that you can inform the public about in the name of transparency?” it added.
The movement also said there is a need to be vigilant on the issue to ensure that the transgressions in 2009 would remain a thing of the past.
In 2009, the proclamation of National Artists became controversial when then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dropped Ramon Santos, nominee for music, from the list submitted by the CCP and NCCA.
The president also included four names: Carlo Caparas for visual arts and film, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez for theater, Jose “Pitoy” Moreno for fashion design and Francisco Mañosa for architecture.
The changes resulted in protests and a Supreme Court (SC) plea seeking the invalidation of the proclamation of the four added by Arroyo.
The SC voided in 2013 the inclusion of the four names, which resulted in the eventual proclamation of the three other names included in the original list submitted by NCCA and CCP.
They were Lazaro Francisco (posthumous for literature), Manuel Conde (posthumous for film and broadcast) and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (visual arts, painting, sculpture and mixed media).
Alcuaz died in 2011, prior to the SC order that paved way for their proclamation.
Santos, however, was not reinstated after he was dropped by Arroyo from the list.
He was, however, included in the list supposedly submitted to Aquino.
In their petition, the Nora Aunor for National Artist Movement said that the new set of National Artists would mean restoration and trust for the state honor.
“We believe that you want your platform of governance, daang matuwid (straight path), to be manifest as well in the arts, and what better way to affirm this than to give the artistic community and the Filipino nation a new set of National Artists for our adulation and celebration,” the group said.
“We need this inspiration in these uninspiring times,” they added.