According to the guidelines set by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA), President Benigno Aquino III should be able to confer the Order of National Artist recognition to chosen individuals preferably by June 11 (June 12 is set aside for the Independence Day festivities and the traditional Vin d’Honneur).
The event is held every three years. The country last had a set of National Artists five years ago, which means that a new set of award recipients should have been named in 2012.
However, because the Supreme Court at that time hasn’t ruled yet about the controversy that surrounded the awards process in 2009, the Aquino administration decided not to move forward with the nominations for the mean time.
It can be remembered that certain quarters urged Aquino to use his presidential prerogative to declare Comedy King Dolphy Quizon a National Artist shortly before he died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at 83 back in July 2012. The Palace did not budge. Curiously, the late comedian received the Order of the Golden Heart recognition two years prior.
Let’s turn our attention to Ms Nora Aunor, the so-called “superstar” of Philippine Cinema. For many months now, it’s been speculated that Aunor will be included in the list National Artist awardees for 2014.
GMA News reported last April that NCCA had confirmed that Aunor is indeed in the final list of National Artist nominees they recommended to the Office of the President. In fact, this reached Malacanang as early as September 2013.
So, what is the reason for the delay? In his column titled “Whatever happened to the new national artists?” multi-awarded writer Butch Dalisay, a member of the National Artist awards selection committee, mentioned the rumors that the delay may be intentional on the part of the Palace.
He wrote: “A bit of speculation has it that the Palace was betting on the late Dolphy, rather than Nora Aunor, to make it through the (national artist award) selection process, and that if Dolphy’s not getting it, then neither will Nora.”
Is it possible for Aquino to remove Nora from the list of awardees?
When the Supreme Court decided on the National Artist awards controversy last year, it divided the issue into two:
1) Did President Gloria Arroyo commit grave abuse of discretion in adding the names of Carlo J. Caparas, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Francisco Manosa, and Jose “Pitoy” Moreno in the list of National Artist awardees for 2009?
2) Did Arroyo commit grave abuse of discretion in removing Ramon Santos, a world-renown composer and conductor, from the list of national artists for that year?
In the case formally titled Almario et. al. vs. Executive Secretary et. al. (G.R. 189028), the High Court invalidated the conferment of national artist awards for Caparas, Guidote-Alvarez, Manosa, and Moreno “without prejudice to the possibility of them being considered for the honor of National Artist in the future.”
However, one aspect of the said decision that hasn’t really been discussed much is that it also affirmed Arroyo’s right to remove Santos from the list. According to the SC, sitting presidents can “alter, modify, nullify, or set aside such recommendation or advice (from the NCCA).”
The Court further expounded: “It was well within the President’s power and discretion to proclaim all, or some or even none of the recommendees of the CCP and the NCCA Boards, without having to justify his or her action.”
Red the full text of SC’s decision on G.R. 189028 in this link.
In other words, while the Supreme Court reined in a president’s power to arbitrarily add names in the list submitted by NCCA for consideration as National Artists, it affirmed the President’s prerogative to exclude anyone from that list.
Nora Aunor may be included in NCCA’s final list of National Artist recommendees, but if President Aquino doesn’t want to confer her that recognition, he can remove her from that list because he can legally do so.