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Is Politics Corrupting The National Artists Awards? (Updated)

August 7, 2009

national artist awards protest montage

It’s only been three days since Filipinos buried their well-loved former President Cory Aquino but it seems the gloves are already coming off against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Mrs. Arroyo had earned a measure of praise from some quarters, including this writer, for her act of gritting her teeth and going to Tita Cory’s wake.

I felt it was an act of statesmanship on her part.

There are, for sure, questions about why the visit appeared to have been done in stealth with Arroyo avoiding the crowds.

I personally think it would already be nitpicking to do that.

But what is playing out now is something else: the cries of dagdag-bawas in the National Artist awards and how politics is perceived to have factored into the selection of 7 awardees, with Malacanang removing four of those recommended by the National Commission on Culture and Arts and one being ‘inserted’.

Blogger Caffeine Sparks’ piece about the controversy is the most biting I’ve come across, with the blogpost title encapsulating the brouhaha: Kultura ng Korupsyon, Korupsyon ng Kultura (Culture of Corruption, Corruption of Culture).

caparas guidote montage

Two of the Malacanang-selected awardees have become the focus of denunciations: Carlo J. Caparas the film director and illustrated storybook (komiks) story writer better known for his massacre movies and Ms. Cecille Guidote Alvarez, founder of PETA – The Philippine Educational Theater Association and wife of Heherson ‘Sonny’ Alvarez, a former senator and former Environment secretary who is now Pres. Arroyo’s adviser on climate change.

Ms. Guidote-Alvarez says protesting artists are exploiting the death of President Corazon Aquino by staging a “funeral” for the National Artist Awards.

Ang mahalaga, katotohanan ang lumabas. Hindi ako naguumpisa ng away pero huwag naman nilang tuligsain ang karangalan, katauhan, at pangalan ko dahil yun lang ang pamana ko sa aking mga anak. Kapag ganun na, kailangang tumindig at magtanggol (The important thing is for the truth to come out. I do not start fights but if my good name is dragged into this, I will have no other choice than to stand up and fight).

Caparas’ selection appears quite sticky.

He’s been named national artist for visual arts even as he himself does not draw.

His best selling comic books were all drawn by other people!.


Arguing his case on the show Media In Focus, Caparas insisted that he himself began as a komiks illustrator “but since I will make ore money faster by making movies I decided on the career path.”.

Speaking in the vernacular, the embattled awaredee chastised those protesting his select:

Ang nangyayari dito ay idinadamay ako sa political protest syndrome laban kay Pangulong Gloria.

Ang mga tumututol ay hindi lamang matanggap na ako’y galing sa masa at hindi sa akademiya samantalang sila’y puros mahuhusay sa Ingles.

Ang aking mga likha ay walang kinikilalang pulitika.

Equally galling is how Caparas himself has been exhibiting what many feel is an arrogant posture while refusing to give proper credit to the genuine designers of his comic book sagas.

artists award protest

As the weekend began, protesters held a program mourning the ‘death’ of the national artists awards with several past honorees returning their medallions, while Malacanang is simply saying Mrs. Arroyo has full prerogative to make her dagdag-bawas.

No wonder Caparas’ posture of arrogance  is the way it is.

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