Palace says National Artists title conferment final

Posted at 09/16/09 12:12 PM

MANILA - The Arroyo administration on Tuesday said that the conferment of the rank and title of the Order of National Artist to movie director Carlo J. Caparas and six others is already final and can no longer be overturned by the Supreme Court. 

In a 51-page comment, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) sought the dismissal of the petition for prohibition filed by several national artists and cultural workers for being moot and academic.

Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera noted that President Arroyo had already issued on July 6, 2009 Proclamation Nos. 1823, 1824, 1825, 1826, 1827, 188, and 1829 declaring Manuel Urbano (Film and Broadcast): Lazaro Francisco (Literature), Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (Visual Arts), Cecilia Guidote-Alvarez (Theater), Caparas Visual Arts and Film), Francisco Manosa (Architecture), Jose “Pitoy” Moreno (Fashion Design)  as national artists, respectively.

With the issuance of the said proclamations, Devanadera said there is no other action necessary to consummate the award.

She said the subsequent presentation of the gold medallion and citation to the awardees is a mere formality which has no bearing at all on the conferred status.

The OSG cited the case of the late action star Fernando Poe, Jr., whose proclamation as a national artist by the President was not followed by a ceremonial presentation of gold medallion and citation because his family’s refusal to accept the same.

Still, according to the Devanadera, Poe remains in the official roster of national artists.

“The issues raised in the petition are clearly moot and academic as private respondents have been declared national artists. No amount of melodramatic protests shall overturn this fact,” Devanadera said.

“The present petition is one for prohibition which is a preventive remedy. The act sought to be enjoined having taken place already, there is nothing more to restrain. The instant petition has therefore been unmade as a mere subject matter of purely theoretical interest,” she added.

Last August 25, the Court issued a status quo order enjoining Mrs. Arroyo from conferring the rank and title of the order of national artists to movie director Caparas and his fellow nominees.

The OSG noted that the petitioners failed to question the legality of the Mrs. Arroyo’s proclamations in their petition, thus, leaving them with no case against the respondents.

The petitioners led by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines are questioning the legality of the President decision to include the names of Caparas, Moreno, and Manosa in the shortlist submitted by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) despite that they did not pass the rigorous selection process for the conferment of the Order of National Artist award.

They also accused Mrs. Arroyo of violating the provision of the Constitution the equal protection guarantee under Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution when she included Alvarez’s name in the shortlist despite that she was never nominated and subjected to screening process by the National Artist Award Experts Panel.

But, Devanadera said there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the President in declaring Caparas, Alvarez, Manosa and Moreno as national artists.

The OSG said the President did not disregard the selection process of the NCCA-CCP board but instead took it into consideration along with the recommendation of the Committee on Honors.

Devanadera disclosed that it was the Committee on Honors which submitted the names of Caparas, Manosa, Alvarez and Moreno for the 2009 Order of National Artists.

The committee is composed of the Executive Secretary, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, head of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), Presidential Assistant for Historical Affairs, Chief Presidential Protocol and State Visits – Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).