18 August 2009

The Politics in Art

National Artist Protest
Officials in Malacañang Palace would like the current uproar over its alleged 'dagdag-bawas' selection if National Artist to blow over fast and quickly before everyone are caught up in an election fever, but it does not look that way.

The fuzzy explanation that the media received is not helping much except to further muddle the issue and keep the important facts sidetracked and ignored. The public and taxpayers do not deserve this kind of underhand and shabby double-dealing treatment.

For instance, there may be no question that Cecile Guidote Alvarez is qualified for the state's highest honor for an artist, but is it really proper for her to accept the award considering that she is the Executive Director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), one of the agencies administering the award. Maybe she should have tendered her resignation first before accepting any recognition in whatever form that cast a big cloud on the credibility of NCCA. Is she even familiar with the term 'delicadeza'?

Guidelines in the nominations for national artists state that "NCCA and CCP Board members and consultants and NCCA and CCP officers and staff are automatically disqualified from being nominated."

President Arroyo also conferred the award to seven individuals: Manuel Conde for cinema; Federico Aguilar Alcuaz for visual arts; Lazaro Francisco for literature; Francisco 'Bobby' Mañoza for architecture; Jose "Pitoy" Moreno for literature; Magno Jose Carlo Caparas for visual arts and film; and Alvarez for theater.

National artists receive lifetime benefits including a monthly pension, medical and life insurance, arrangement for a state funeral, a place of honor at national state functions, and recognition at cultural events.

National artist for literature, Bienvenido Lumbera, revealed to the media that Caparas’ nomination was twice rejected by two NCAA panels. "He (Caparas) was first proposed as a nominee for literature, but the committee rejected him. He was again proposed as nominee for visual artist but the panel again turned him down."

If this is the case, what prompted the artistic blood, if there are any, in the President to confer the national artist award to these individuals? Is it because they have expressed full support to her presidency and to any of her programs?

Such support may include the selling by Caparas' of the rights to his Ang Panday icon poster right before the 2004 presidential election to possibly preempt Fernando Poe Jr. from using it on his campaign, as disclosed by Rep. Imee Marcos. If this is the case, then it is really disgusting.

The National Artist selection process should not be tainted with politics because if Malacañang dips their hand into this, how can the people believe in their efforts for genuine political reform when they cannot even follow the simple guideline. Nevertheless, whatever efforts are made to patch things up, it will only go to waste because it has already been undermined by details of extensive travel and lavish dinners costing thousands of dollars.