SC stops conferment of Nat'l Artist awards

Posted at 08/25/2009 4:20 PM | Updated as of 08/26/2009 12:48 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday issued a resolution stopping Malacañang from conferring the Order of National Artists to seven individuals pending a petition filed before it.

The high court issued a status quo order while it resolves a petition seeking to disqualify four of the seven National Artists, including movie director Carlo J. Caparas, selected by President Arroyo.

"The court saw the urgency to issue the status quo order and stop the conferment of the awards. It has the same affect as a temporary restraining order," SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said in a press conference.

Aside from the status quo order, the SC also directed the respondents to comment on the petition filed by several National Artists and cultural workers on August 19.

Marquez said SC en banc came up with the resolution during its regular session Tuesday.

Named respondents in the case were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the National Commission on Cultural and the Arts (NCAA), Cecile Guidote-Alvarez (theater), Caparas (film and visual arts), Francisco Mañosa (architecture), and Jose “Pitoy” Moreno (fashion design).

After the submission of the comments of the respondents, Marquez said the high court would then decide whether or not to set the case for oral arguments.

‘Grave abuse of discretion’

On August 19, a group of National Artists and their supporters asked the high court to stop Malacañang from awarding this year’s Order of National Artists to four individuals.

The group, led by National Artists for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and Virgilio Almario, filed a 38-page petition for prohibition, certiorari and injunction with prayer for restraining order to prevent the Palace from conferring the title to Guidote-Alvarez, Caparas, Mañosa, and Moreno.

The petitioners said President Arroyo committed "grave abuse of discretion” when she added the names of Guidote-Alvarez, Caparas, Mañosa, and Moreno to the final list submitted by CCP and the NCCA.

They also lamented the “unexplained deletion” of composer Dr. Ramon Santos from the final shortlist.

The final shortlist submitted by the CCP and the NCCA included Santos, Manuel Conde Jr. (posthumous award for film and broadcast media), Lazaro Francisco (posthumous award for literature), and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (visual arts, paintings, sculpture and mixed media).

When Ermita publicly disclosed the Order of the National Artists late July, the roster included Caparas, Moreno, Mañosa and Alvarez.

The petitioners decried that none of the four had been chosen by their peers or recommended by the CCP and NCCA. They noted, in particular, that Guidote-Alvarez is not eligible to become National Artist since she is NCCA executive director and the President’s adviser on culture of arts.

Guidote-Alvarez has denied taking part in this year's screening for the Order of National Artists.

They scored the President for her alleged disregard of “the rigorous process for screening and selection of National Artists.”

They also argued that the President's prerogative to add to the Order of National Artists roster is not absolute or unlimited.

The petitioners asked the high court to set the case for oral arguments.