CCP: Malacañang bypassed rules of the selection process for National Artists

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(From left to right) Nestor O. Jardin, Salvador Bernal (National Artist for theater design, Emily Abrera (CCP Chair), F. Sionil Jose (National Artist for literature), and Bienvenido Lumbera (National Artist for literature) question the decision of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to add four new National Artist awardees without consulting the selection committee. Courtesy of CCP

By Mark Angelo Ching – The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has deplored Malacañang’s appointment of four National Artists which bypassed the “established process” in the selection of the awardees.

In a press conference today, August 4, at the CCP Complex in Pasay City, CCP Chairman Emily Abrera said they were saddened when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo chose to add four other artists to their list of nominees without consultation. One of their original choices had also been removed.

On July 29, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced that the President had named seven new National Artists: Carlo J. Caparas, Pitoy Moreno, Cecille Guidote-Alvarez, Francisco Mañosa, Lazaro Francisco, Manuel Conde, and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz.

Of these seven, only Francisco, Conde and Alcuaz were original choices. Ramon Santos, a world-renowned Filipino composer, had been dropped from the list.

“We wish to clarify that we were never consulted about these final choices, nor have we been officially informed about them, to this day,” Abrera said.

This lack of official pronouncement from the President is the reason why the CCP still has not decided yet on the date and the venue of the awards ceremony.

HISTORY. The National Artist Award was established on April 27, 1972 through Proclamation No. 1001 signed by former President Ferdinand Marcos. It aims to recognize Filipino artists who have made “distinct contributions” to Philippine arts and letters.

CCP was given the responsibility of administering the award in 1973, but was later commissioned to share its duties with the newly-established National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in 1992.

Although the two government agencies work for a long time researching and deliberating on nominated artists before coming up with their final picks, the President has the prerogative to add his/her own awardees.

Among the criteria to be considered in the nomination of national artists are: Filipino citizenship, artistic influence, prestige, an outstanding body of work and a contribution to the country’s “sense of nationhood.”

Meanwhile, Executive Order no. 236, which Pres. Arroyo signed in 2003, provided National Artists with a cash award of up to 100,000 pesos at the time of conferment, a monthly life pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, a life insurance coverage, and arrangements for a state funeral.

STRONG BACKLASH. The gravity of the National Artist distinction, therefore, have allowed critics to strongly disparage two of the Malacañang’s picks, namely Guidote-Alvarez and Caparas.

In the CCP press con, Abrera questioned Guidote-Alvarez’s citation, pointing out that the rules specifically state that any member of the Board of Selections in both the NCCA and the CCP are automatically disqualified. Guidote-Alvarez currently sits as the head of the NCCA and a presidential adviser on culture and the arts.

Meanwhile, comic book artist Gerry Alanguilan commented in the online lifestyle magazine Spot.ph that Caparas could not be cited for the National Artist for visual arts and film because the writer-producer did not draw his most popular works.

“The puzzling thing is, CJC is NOT an illustrator. He has never drawn any of this comic book stories, least of all his most popular creations. Panday and Pieta were drawn by Steve Gan. Bakekang was drawn by Mar Santana. How can someone who is NOT a visual artist get the National Artist title for visual arts?” Alanguilan argued.

NATIONAL ARTISTS REACT. Meanwhile, National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, who was also present in the CCP presscon, shared his doubts on Caparas’ moviemaking skills.

“This I can tell you, there is no movie of Carlo Caparas that I have watched in entirety, I always walk out,” Jose told the press.

National Artist for theater and design Salvador Bernal, on the other hand, said he was “aghast” when he learned that four artists who have not passed the screening will be conferred the award.

“Personally, I have been through the process, and I would like to say that the process for the selection of our National Artists has been rather rigorous, practically nominees passing through the eye of the needle,” he said.

National Artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera, on the other hand, said the Malacañang announcement has “produced a scandal.”

“What makes this even more outrageous is that Ramon Santos, who received a good number of votes in the panel selection, was dropped from the list. The basis for him being scrapped, one doesn’t know,” Lumbera lamented.

A CCP official, who asked not to be named, told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) that Santos actually won the most number of votes during the selection process. Santos still has not spoken about the whole brouhaha up to this day.

REFORMS. CCP President Nestor Jardin believes that the scandal would have been avoided if only the law would specifically state the limits of the presidential prerogative. The current law, he added, is open to lobbying.

“I think a new law should be created to strengthen the National Artist award. A law that would perhaps avoid politicizing. A law that would probably include measures that would safeguard integrity of the award,” he explained.

On the other hand, Atty. Lorna Kapunan, a member of the CCP Board of Trustees, claims that the President does not have the right to insert her own choices into the National Artists selection. She explained that a provision in the selection rules limits the presidential power to “confirmation, proclamation and conferral” only.

“The president has no prerogative as regards to National Artists award… She can create as many awards given by the President herself, but that is not the nature of the National Artist Award,” she argued.

Kapunan also proposed that the whole case be brought to the Supreme Court.

“As some politician has said, that if you are being baked, you just lie down, grin and bare it… The time to do that has ended, we will go to the Supreme Court to question this exercise of ‘prerogative,'” Kapunan said.

PROTEST ACTION. A group of National Artists, meanwhile, will mount a protest action on Friday, August 7, to “mourn the death of the National Artist awards.”

An invitation circulating on the Internet reads: “Iniimbitahan kayo ng mga National Artists na sina Ben Cabrera, Bien Lumbera, Rio Alma, F. Sionil Jose, Arturo Luz, Salvador Bernal na makilahok sa isang luksang bayan para sa pagpanaw ng makabuluhang National Artist awards. Pakiusap, panluksang pananamit.”

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4 Responses to CCP: Malacañang bypassed rules of the selection process for National Artists

  • Leo Martinez says:

    Where did he come from?

    Some weeks back, news was rife about the National Artist Awardees awaiting confirmation by Malacañang. Cited as National Artist for Film, albeit posthumously, was Manuel Conde. We at the Film Academy of the Philippines had nominated Director Celso Ad. Castillo, but really, nobody can dispute Mr. Conde’s place in Philippine cinema¹s history. We believe that even Director Castillo who is similarly deserving of the award will graciously acknowledge the greatness of the man.

    Two days ago, the confirmation was finally announced and to our surprise and to the surprise of many in the film industry, the National Artist Award for Film was also conferred on Carlo Caparas. Not only that, he was bestowed the National Artist Award for Film AND Visual Arts.

    So, where did he come from? Throughout the long and exacting selection process, Carlo Caparas was never, ever mentioned as nominee, not for film and surely not for visual arts. All of a sudden, he is a National Artist and seemingly the most gifted of all for straddling two major art fields.

    There only seems to be one answer to this mystery. Between the Awards selection panels and us, the people, the list of awardees made a stop-over in Malacañang. Someone waved the magic wand and a name appeared, a person who never went through the incisive and deliberate scrutiny that the rest of the awardees were subjected to by the Awards organizers. I believe that this is an act of blatant accommodation.

    Conferring the highest award on someone who was never in the running makes a travesty of the National Artists Awards, an institution that has been looked up to, venerated even for the recognition it gives to Filipinos whose body of works or whose contribution to the Filipino people is of the highest order. We have as this year’s awardees Manuel Conde for Film and Federico Alcuaz for Visual Arts. Both are commendable, both beyond question. It has never been done before but had the Organizers wanted to give the same award to more than one person, why not consider the other most deserving nominees. Instead, and to our utter disgust, a new category was coined and the two most prestigious awards for Film and Visual Arts were conferred on Carlo Caparas.

    It is a pity that the National Artist Award has been reduced to a joke.

    LEO G. MARTINEZ
    Director General
    Film Academy of the Philippines

  • Gerry Alanguilan says:

    As a Filipino comics illustrator, I vehemently oppose and protest the awarding of the title National Arist to Carlo J. Caparas for Visual Arts and Film.

    Clearly, in this regard, Visual Arts and Film are two separate categories. “Visual Arts” therefore refers to Caparas’ work in comics.

    Caparas has *never* illustrated any of the stories he wrote. With every character he created, and ever story he wrote, he did it in collaboration with another artist. Panday and Pieta? Illustrated by Steve Gan. Bakekang? Illustrated by Mar Santana. Kroko? Illustrated by Hal Santiago.

    How can someone who is *not* a visual artist ever be awarded the title of National Artist for Visual Arts?

    It’s patently ridiculous, illogical, and insulting to every Filipino visual artist, specially those who deserve this award more, including Francisco V. Coching and Larry Alcala, who should have been made National Artists long ago.

  • Ben Cabrera says:

    I feel bad. It’s a mockery of the system. They might as well just appoint [their own choices] and not go through the whole process. I will boycott the awards. I will not march. I will not mention any names but we heard that there was one very influential person who helped manipulate the results.

    Sabi nga ng mga artists, it won’t be a “parangal” kundi “pagdadalamhati.” It’s sad. The awards have been debased. One can just lobby for anyone. Hindi na ‘yung peers ang nag-de-decide. Our opinion doesn’t mean anything.

    There used to be prestige. Well since the presidency of Ramos there has been an understanding that the President can add one choice… there was Carlos Quirino (historical literature) , Alejandro ” Anding ‘ Roces (literature) , Abdulmari Asia Imao (visual arts) But this time GMA added four!

    About these four, they didn’t go through the deliberation, there was no presentation. There are 22 of us National Artists. We were bypassed. It was a sudden announcement just before the President left for the US. The results were supposed to be announced before June 12. We were asking. ‘Why the delay?’

    My message to my fellow artists: We should make a statement, particularly the writers who are more articulate. Why should it be like this?

    Now everybody can be a National Artist. They keep adding categories: Landscape Art, Fashion Design, what’s next, hairdressers? They should stick to the seven arts: Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film and Broadcast Arts, and Architecture and Allied Arts.

    Carlo J. Caparas won the award for visual arts because he draws comics daw. They wanted to put him in Literature because he writes scripts daw.

  • Ricardo F. Lo says:

    It happens all the time.

    We choose a Bb. Pilipinas and what follows is a howl of protest — you know, that she’s not deserving and somebody else is. On the heels of every awards night comes shouts of “cheating” (envelop-switching?) and lutong-makaw. Have we ever seen a candidate concede so easily after an election?

    The latest brouhaha revolves around the selection of Carlo J. Caparas as a National Artist for Visual Arts and Film. They are all ganging up on poor Carlo as if he bestowed the much-coveted honor upon himself, not by a screening committee composed, I like to think, of distinguished minds, one of whom was quoted as saying that Carlo, and Cecile Guidote-Alvarez (National Artist For Theater and one-time Ramon Magsaysay awardee), were included in the honor roll on the strength of a “presidential privilege.”

    One critic belittled Carlo’s achievement by dismissing him as a mere “massacre” director who can’t measure up to the likes of Lino Brocka and Gerry de Leon when, in fact, Carlo’s “massacre movies” were, so to speak, only a drop in the bucket of Carlo’s body of work.

    Still another critic (whose claim to fame includes a memorable walk-on role as himself…a movie scribe…in the latest Juday-Ogie starrer) relentlessly “massacred” Carlo in his piece (appropriate title would have been, hehehehe, “kinatay”) questioning his selection while at the same time confessing that he’s “not privy to the selection process” and that he didn’t have anything personal against Carlo, “and I don’t even know him.”

    Like, I am not privy to the “selection process” but I’m sure I know Carlo enough to give him, well, the benefit of the doubt.

    This much I know about Carlo:

    • Although he’s not a high-school graduate (having been educated in the School of Hard Knocks), he managed to create his own niche in the komiks world, no wonder he’s known as the Komiks King;

    • He’s the only artist with a street (in Pasig City where in his early years he worked as a security guard) named after him;

    • He has received so many awards not only as a komiks novelist but also as a scriptwriter/producer/director, plus an Ulirang Ama Award and a few more for propagating the National Language, that he has run out of space to display the trophies in;

    • He’s the only komiks novelist (with more than 800 serials to his credit…and counting) who has successfully crossed over from the printed page to movies and television, with his hit movies based on his komiks serials now being adapted as TV series such as Joaquin Bordado (with former Sen. Ramon Revilla in the movie version and Robin Padilla in the TV version), Totoy Bato (the late FPJ in the movies and again Robin Padilla in television) and many others; and

    • He has published more works, not to mention making them into films (starring movie greats including FPJ in the Panday series, Nora Aunor in Bakekang, Vilma Santos in The Lipa Massacre and Gloria Diaz in the Ander de Saya series), than any of his colleagues.

    In short, Carlo has championed popular literature and, with his wife Donna Villa, continues to do so with their nationwide komiks caravan designed to keep the public’s interest and enthusiasm in the komiks burning.

    With his National Artist award, is Carlo ready to rest on his laurels?

    Guess again.

    When Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last week announced the list of new National Artists before she left for the US, Carlo was in the Cebu set of his latest project, a trilogy for his and Donna’s Golden Lions Films which stars, among others, Manny Pacquiao, Gina Pareño, Jake Cuenca, Caridad Sanchez, Megan Young, Tommy Abuel, Joel Torre, Jackie Rice, Mon Confiado, Ronnie Lazaro and Mark Herras, introducing the Caparas children CJ and Peach.

    “Like me,” said Donna, “Carlo is a multi-tasker. His imagination continues to work even when he’s asleep. So how can he retire?”
    Maybe the critic/movie-scribe should next do a cameo in a Carlo Caparas movie so that he can have a chance to know him up close.

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