Giving in to persistent calls from various sectors, Malacanang has finally released late Friday night the list of the National Artist awardees for 2014. The recognition will be bestowed on the following individuals:
National Artist for Dance – Alice Reyes, founder of Ballet Philippines
National Artist for Literature – Cirilo Bautista, acclaimed writer
National Artist for Visual Arts – Francisco Coching (posthumous)
National Artist for Music – Francisco F. Feliciano and Ramon Santos
Jose Maria V. Zaragoza – National Artist for Architecture (posthumous)
The proclamations (#s 807 to 812) that formalized these announcements can be downloaded on this web page.
Coching’s selection as a national artist for visual arts can be regarded as a repudiation of Carlo J. Caparas. The latter was declared a national artist by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the same category back in 2009 but his inclusion was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) last year. Coching is the creator of Pedro Penduko.
This is also a vindication for Santos, a world-renown composer and conductor. He was removed by Arroyo from the list of recipients in the same year.
Curiously, the SC also mentioned in the aforementioned decision that a president has the right to not bestow the national artist award to a certain individual even if he or she has been included in the shortlist.
However, the biggest surprise in this announcement is the decision of Malacanang to not award the recognition to Nora Aunor, recognized for four decades as the superstar of Philippine cinema.
For several months now, her longtime supporters has engaged in an online campaign to have her recognized as a national artist this year.
And as confirmed separately by a source within the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts and by someone who was part of the initial selection committee, Aunor made it to the shortlist of national artist nominees for 2014.
In fact, as recently as last week, a source told Philippine Daily Inquirer‘s Bayani San Diego that her inclusion is already a done deal.
President Benigno Aquino III’s reason/s for not giving Aunor the national artist award will certainly be the subject of heated debates in the weeks and months to come, but one thing is certain: what he did is perfectly alright from a legal perspective.