MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - A Palace official said on Thursday it cannot fast-track the conferment of a National Artist award for Dolphy, citing an obstacle in the Supreme Court.
In an interview with dzMM, Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said not one artist has been recommended for President Aquino's approval, attributing this to an order the high court issued in August 2009.
A status quo ante order stopped then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from conferring the award to several artists, including controversial ones not chosen by their colleagues.
The issue stemmed from an executive order issued by Arroyo, which made the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) mere recommendatory bodies for choosing national artists.
After a process that took 2 years, the NCCA and the CCP recommended on May 6, 2009 four national artists to Arroyo:
- Manuel Conde (posthumous), Film and Broadcast Arts;
- Dr. Ramon Santos, Music;
- Lazaro Francisco (posthumous), Literature; and,
- Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Visual Arts.
In July that same year, however, Malacañang announced that the Order of the National Artists would be conferred on seven persons. It chose only three from the NCCA and CCP's original list, and excluded Ramon Santos.
It then added the names of four artists:
- Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Theater;
- Carlos Caparas, Visual Arts;
- Jose Moreno, Architecture, Design and Allied Arts (Fashion Design); and,
- Francisco Manosa, Architecture, Design and Allied Arts (Architecture).
Several National Artists questioned Arroyo’s decision before the high court.
The status quo ante order sought to maintain the situation "prevailing at the time of the filing of the petition."
Public respondents were "enjoined from conferring the rank and title of the Order of National Artists on private respondents; from releasing the cash awards that accompany such conferment and recognition; and from holding the acknowledgment ceremonies for recognition of the private respondents as National Artists.”
Dolphy as national artist
The issue has again come to the fore after several groups urged the government to finally give recognition to Rodolfo Vera Quizon Sr., the country's Comedy King.
The clamor grew after news broke on Wednesday that Dolphy was already in critical condition. He has been suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which hinders the flow of air to the lungs.
Valte said Malacañang checked with the cultural agencies on the status of Dolphy’s nomination immediately after hearing the news.
“There are people who have already nominated Dolphy, but it [the process] has not started yet because of the order from the SC,” she said.
She said, “it’s pending in court and from what we understand, that status que ante order still stands.”
Acting SC spokesperson Maria Victoria Gleoresty Guerra declined to comment on the matter until she sees the status of that particular case.
A source said, however, that the case only covers those chosen as national artists on the year in question. That case has been delayed after the high court issued a show cause to the petitioners as to why they should not be held in contempt for failing to file the required pleadings.
Palace won't politicize process
Court documents show that Dolphy was also nominated during the first phase of the search for national artist, but failed to pass the next two phases,
In a press conference on Thursday, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang will not fast-track the process of awarding Dolphy.
He said the process might be politicized if the Palace dips its hands into expediting it.
"Let me emphasize that the President strongly believes in the tremendous contribution of Dolphy to our industry, to the Philippine cultural society. But having said that, again, there is a process and it is a very tedious, stringent process one that should be free from politics," Lacierda said.
He said it is up to the NCCA and the CCP to jumpstart the process.
He noted that the process is a “very rigid” one.