What to Aquino was Nora Aunor’s faux pas
If the previous president made inclusions, this one made an exclusion. Is he allowed within the law that created the National Artist award to do so? Legal eagles say he is. There does not seem to be any problem on that so far, unless another interpretation arises. Which remains a distinct possibility.
But the fact remains unchanged: Nora Aunor passed the rigorous three-step process of the
National Artist award. How truly rigorous is that process? For the information of readers, let us review what those steps are.
The first step is nomination, which does not ensure conferral but is only the start of the rigor. The nomination is then vetted by what is known as a “special research group” composed of commissioned arts and culture experts. This is the first round. A nominee that fails in this round does not make it to the rest of the process. On the other hand, a nominee that passes is never ensured conferral. For that nominee, the trial has only begun.
The nominee’s name is then brought to the National Artist Award Council of Peers, which, as the name suggests, is a peer review phase, so to speak. Past awardees sit in this council. The process dictates that this council must twice deliberate to produce a shortlist. As in the first step, a nominee that passes this step (that by itself is made up of two steps) is not ensured conferral yet. This is the second step, yet in reality is composed of the second but also a third component step. Strictly speaking then, there are a total of four steps, not to mention the nomination which actually constitutes a step in itself. If we include that, there actually are five steps.
The “third” (but in our contention, the fourth) step is the final review process. Again, if you include nomination, this makes it the fifth step. Here the shortlist is scrutinized by the boards of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which must sit in a joint board meeting. It is composed of 30 members, with each giving his/her individual vote for every nominee. A nominee passes this step by receiving a simple majority—50 percent + 1—of the voting members.
Nora Aunor passed all the stringent steps. In the final process, she was said to have received more than the simple majority required. Note that at this stage, what had previously been a shortlist has now become an even shorter one. If you want comparisons, a highly popular movie personality (now dead) also reached the third step in a past vetting process but received less than 10 votes only. That was how powerful the vetting and voting process was for Nora. There is no such thing as popularity here.
Malacañang disregarded all of that. Does it have the personality to distrust that legally prescribed process? Perhaps the exclusion may not lie in the province of legalities? More importantly, does it have the propriety to exclude Nora?
By the very nature of its peculiar character—an honor system for Filipino artistry and genius—the National Artist award is best privileged from the perspective of its own peers who are the experts in their respective endeavors. Thus, one basic requirement of such nature is to insulate it from the slings and arrows of partisan politics. The last Supreme Court decision touching on the award—where it stripped Cecile Guidote Alvarez, Carlo Caparas, Jose “Pitoy” Moreno and Francisco Mañosa of the awards after Malacañang included them even if their names never passed what turns out now to be a five-step process—must now be part of jurisprudence. But in fact it also speaks much of that propriety.
Where does propriety lie in this controversy? It lies right on how Malacañang treats this honor system from a totally different worldview. The National Artist award, just by looking at the rigorous five-step process, operates from the worldview of the culture of the spirit. “The culture of the spirit is the culture of caring. There is interconnectedness in that worldview. It is a horizontal process. Inversely, and from which Malacañang operates, is the culture of power. The culture of power, given to rivalrous factions and thus operates from a vertical top-to-bottom process, is a culture of disconnectedness and distrust,” opines an arts and culture stalwart whose name must for now be protected from a vindictive Malacañang. He was part of the final voting process.
President Noynoy Aquino did not make inclusions, all right, but did he insulate the National Artist award from partisan politics? The answer may be in the negative. Whatever his reasons were, he played politics.
Was it the drug addiction case in the United States? Was it Nora’s topsy-turvy personal life that Mr. Aquino fears may not provide for a good role model for Filipinos? There is irony there. Mr. Aquino only needs to look at his own family backyard.
Nora Aunor was stricken off the list because she campaigned for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the previous presidential election. Remember the so-called mole-on-the-face look-alike?
Mr. Aquino has just done an Arroyo: He toyed with politics in the National Artist award. Put that in the history books.
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