Two party list congressmen filed a resolution for the conduct of a house committee inquiry into the controversy surrounding the recent National Artist Awards.
Rep. Teodoro A. Casino (Bayan Muna) and Rep. Raymond V. Palatino (Kabataan Party) filed House Resolution 1309 directing the Committee on Basic Education and Culture to conduct the inquiry.
Casino held a press conference yesterday afternoon (Monday, August 10) which was also attended by several resource persons, including National Artist for Literature Bievenido Lumbera, Film Academy of the Philippines Director General Leo G. Martinez, Carlitos Siguion-Renya of the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Incorporated, NCCA Commissioner Elmar Ingles, Dennis Marasigan of MTRCB and Jim Paredes.
Pertinent portions of House Resolution 1309 are as follows:
Whereas, the recently concluded National Artist Awards has triggered an outrage from numerous concerned artists over the manner in which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) invoked her “presidential prerogative” in naming four awardees, and dropping one nominee from the four artists that were originally recommended by the duly designated selection committee;
Whereas, this move by the President is seen by many as a blatant disregard of the rigorous deliberations made by the selection committee composed of representatives of the national Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP);
Whereas, the CCP pointed out that while the President has the prerogative to add her own awardees, the selection committee was never consulted about the final choices, nor was it officially informed about them. The fact that the specific limits of this presidential prerogative are not clearly stated leaves it open to possible abuse of authority and political accommodation which only serves to undermine the integrity of the awards;
Whereas, the reported existence of as mysterious “honors committee” in Malacanang that was responsible for the additional awardees, and dropping of one nominee appears to have defeated the very purpose for which a selection committee for the National Artist Awards was created;
Whereas, in view of the scandal and in order to help ensure that the National Artist Awards remain esteemed and beyond reproach, it is important to determine the limits of the so-called presidential prerogative in this instance and to review the qualifications and selection process of the National Artist Awards;
Whereas, the issue has also brought to the fore the need to determine whether or not it is better to institutionalize the selection process for the awarding of national artists through legislation in order to avoid more confusion and controversies in the future;
Now, be it resolved as it is hereby resolved that the House direct the Committee on Basic Education and Culture to conduct an inquiry into the controversy surrounding the National Artist Awards.
Meanwhile, the Cultural Center of the Philippines was the site of the “necrological services” for the National Artist Award on a First Friday last August 7. The protest was due to the alleged irregularities in the selection of National Artists for this year.
National Artists all: Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera, Virgilio “Rio Alma” Almario, Bienvenido Lumbera, Salvador Bernal, Arturo Luz
The protest was led by National Artist for Cinema Eddie Romero, National Artists for Visual Arts Napoleon Abueva, Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera and Arturo Luz, National Artist for Theater Salvador Bernal, and National Artists for Literature F. Sionil Jose, Virgilio Almario and Bien Lumbera.
F. Sionil Jose and Napoleon Abueva
The short program of speeches, poems and a satirical monologue presented a negative picture that four awardees, namely Cecile Guidote Alvarez for Theater, Carlo Caparas for Film and Visual Arts, Pitoy Moreno for Fashion and Francisco Mañosa for Architecture did not pass thru the normal process of selection.
In this light, the National Artists themselves are expressing their indignation for the anomalous inclusion particularly of Carlo Caparas who pales in comparison with the official nominees in his category (Dolphy and Celso Ad Castillo).
Also under fire is Cecile Guidote Alvarez who heads the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts). NCCA is tasked to accept and screen the nominations before coming up with a shortlist that is to be passed on to the selection committee.
As a symbolic gesture, the eight National Artists placed back their medallions in the wooden chest. Those medallions will stay there and will only be worn again when the issue is resolved (the awarding to Caparas and Alvarez).
After the program, the “cortege” bearing the big wreath led the procession cum motorcade. Participants were advised to blow their horns when they pass by the NCCA offices in Intramuros.
Maan Hontiveros, Leo Martinez, Imee Marcos
Also in the cast of protesters were FAP Director General Leo Martinez, film directors Joel Lamangan, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Gil Portes, Mark Meily and Joey Javier Reyes. Others who provided support were Jim Paredes, comedian Eugene Domingo, Ces Quesada, Bibeth Orteza, singers Bituin Escalante and Isay Alvarez. Celeste Legaspi recited a poem.
Also present was the youngish-looking Congresswoman Imee Marcos who can give Angel Locsin and Marian Rivera a run for their money. The legendary cinematographer, Romy Vitug, was with his videocam focusing on Maan Hontiveros and the tireless Leah Navarro.
The FAP tarp being held by visual artists Alex Cabrera and Vic Dabao
According to CAP (Concerned Artists of the Philippines), the protest is just the first of a series. Their intention is to continue until the award in question is retracted.
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