It took an agonizingly long time, but the country’s artistic community has special reason to celebrate this week, because the Supreme Court has finally ruled in favor of a petition to nullify the flawed and subjective presidential proclamation that elevated Carlo J. Caparas, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Jose Moreno and Francisco Mañosa to the august rank of National Artists.
Describing the discredited act as a grave abuse of discretion, the court overwhelmingly ruled in favor of the petition, thus belatedly pulling out the thorn that has become a festering sore in the hearts and sensibilities of many of the nation’s artists and art lovers, who seethed and railed against this latest instance of preferential presidential politics interfering with the nation’s top artistic honor’s rigorous selection process.
We trust that the court’s long-awaited verdict will enable the top artistic citation to redeem its sundered credibility, so that the next batch of awardees can experience the psychic satisfaction of receiving more than just a coopted, hollow “honor.”
Being a genuine artist in this country is very difficult, so we owe our best creative minds unequivocally credible and authentic recompense for their lifetime of selfless service.
In addition, we hope that the court’s ruling will make future chiefs of state think thrice before “inserting” their subjectively preferred choices into the top honor’s rigorous selection process. Alas, this has happened numerous times in the past—in fact, the only presidents who have not fiddled and fuddled with the award in one way or another are the late Corazon Aquino and our currect chief of state, Noynoy Aquino. Thanks to their enlightened decision not to interfere, the National Artist award has retained a measure of its objectivity and worth.
Despite this, there are those who have regretfully concluded that the award is no longer capable of rehabilitation. We beg to disagree—but, we do acknowledge that the revalidation process will take more than just a favorable judicial ruling.
The National Artist honor has lost so much of its “capital” that nothing short of a complete makeover will enable it to reclaim its lost glory.
The essential reforms include the selection process itself, which has been excessively encumbered by institutional “persuasions” that sometimes favor the well-connected teacher or organizer over the genuine practising artist. Selectors should also place greater weight on consistent body of work, rather than the occasional and isolated achievement. There’s also too much emphasis placed on “international” citations, which are often “niche” achievements that impress the “colonially minded” but aren’t relevant to local audiences.
In addition, some selectors are officials rather than artists, so they don’t have the ability to tell great artistic achievement apart from mediocre work. And then, there are the academic types, the “purists” who sniff at “popular” art and believe that it’s inherently inferior to “high-minded,” abstracted creations.
—So much crucial work still to be done—but, at least the Supreme Court’s enlightened decision has pointed us on our way.