Controversy over ‘dubious’ National Artists remains unresolved
For the past decade or so, I have been involved in the selection process for the country’s National Artists. The first time was when I was chosen to be a part of the committee of peers and “experts” tasked to choose finalists in the Broadcast Arts division.
The members of that committee unanimously voted me chair, so that pushed me up one more level, and I joined the other divisions’ committee heads in a higher body that vetted the finalists in all of the arts categories, and cut their number down for the final deciding group, made up of CCP and NCCA trustees, to choose their five or six winners from.
Later, I was named CCP trustee, so I became part of that final deciding group. Thus, quite without my planning to, I was given a rare “total” view of the first, second and third stages involved in the National Artist selection process.
Since I revere genuine artistic talents and have benefited enormously from their artistry, I vowed to put this knowledge and understanding to good use, in making sure that the talents I voted for would be of unimpeachable National Artist quality.
Which is why I was most disturbed to hear last year that there were secret moves to “presidentially” insert “winners” who had not gone through the official process. I wrote about it, and my exposé helped trigger the near-universal indignation and uproar that has sundered the country’s artistic community and caused the case to be elevated to the Supreme Court for judgment – where it is, most lamentably, still “pending” after all this time.
Despite this troubled and contentious scenario, however, I hear that nominations are again being submitted. In fact, a senior artist of great repute has called to inform me that the artist has gotten word of being nominated – which the nominee has decided to decline. Reason: “I don’t want to have to stand side by side with those dubious ‘presidential’ so-called ‘winners’ – it’s too galling and demeaning a prospect!”
Reactions like this indicate that the controversy over the dubious and just plain undeserving National Artists remains as contentious, incendiary and divisive as ever. So, the least the CCP-NCCA should do is to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on the case, one way or the other. It would definitely affect how both nominees and the artistic community would view the issue – and the future prospects, viability and validity of the award itself, from here on in.
To hasten the clarification of this most contentious issue that continues to divide the country’s artists, I urge the members of the Supreme Court to give this case the importance it deserves.
I remember going to the Supreme Court many years ago for the hearings on “Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim” and the attendant discussions on freedom of expression and the question of their prior restraint, and I recall that the court’s decision was rendered expeditiously. Why should the present court be taking its sweet and s-l-o-w time now?
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