National arts body stands by Nora Aunor


Nora Aunor in a scene in “Himala”: “Handling herself with utmost modesty and refinement”

MANILA, Philippines–The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) stands by Nora Aunor, but also notes the legality of President Aquino’s decision to exclude the actress from the newest batch of national artists.

The NCCA and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) also confirmed that aside from the six newly proclaimed national artists, three more will be conferred the honor in a formal ceremony: fictionist Lazaro Francisco, painter Federico Aguilar Alcuaz and filmmaker Manuel Conde.

In 2009, the three national artists’ conferment was deferred as a result of the controversy surrounding the last-minute inclusion of four names (komiks novelist Carlo J. Caparas, theater artist Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, architect Francisco Mañosa and fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno) by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the honor roll.

Conde, Francisco and Alcuaz will be conferred the honor of national artist along with the latest honorees—choreographer Alice Reyes (dance), komiks novelist/artist Francisco Coching (posthumous-visual arts), poet Cirilo F. Bautista (literature), composer Francisco Feliciano (music), architect Jose Maria Zaragoza (posthumous-architecture, design and allied arts) and composer Ramon Santos (music)—in a ceremony that is yet to be scheduled.

Santos was part of the 2009 batch, but his name was dropped from the list by Arroyo to make room for the four artists who didn’t go through the process.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, legal counsel of the NCCA, said: “The three were already proclaimed by President Arroyo. Their conferment only didn’t push through due to the court case in 2009.”

The three are already included in the roster of national artists posted on the government’s official website.

The Supreme Court released its decision in 2013, voiding the inclusion of Caparas, Alvarez, Mañosa and Moreno, and upholding the validity of the three’s proclamation, Angeles recounted.

In a phone interview on Monday, Emily Abrera, chair of the CCP board, said: “The three were robbed of their moment… Finally, they will be formally recognized with the new batch.”

Abrera said Alcuaz died in February 2011 while waiting for the case to be settled.

Conde’s son happy

Filmmaker Jun Urbano, son of Conde, told the Inquirer: “This is good news. My family is thankful and happy. Unfortunately, my mother (Julita Salazar-Urbano) died last year. She was also waiting for this honor.”

Conde passed away in 1985; Francisco died in 1980.

Previously, there was confusion when the names of the three didn’t appear on the new list of national artists released by Malacañang on Friday.

In a phone interview on Sunday, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera told the Inquirer: “The NCCA should clarify the status of the three.”

Committee on honors

NCCA Chair Felipe de Leon Jr. told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Sunday: “In a meeting earlier this month, the CCP, the NCCA and the honors committee of the Office of the President (OP) agreed that the three will be conferred along with the new batch.”

At the same early June meeting, the committee on honors approved the proclamation of Santos and the six new national artists, including Aunor.

Angeles told the Inquirer: “Nora was approved by the honors committee as well. It was an exercise of discretion, on the President’s part, to exclude her.”

Angeles reiterated that the President’s action was legal. “It is true that he doesn’t have to justify his decision,” she said. “But this is not just an issue of legality, but of propriety.”

Malacañang on Monday insisted that Aquino did not commit grave abuse of discretion when he excluded Aunor from his proclamations of new national artists.

The President has the power to approve all or none of the nominees from the CCP and the NCCA, according to presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, citing the 2013 Supreme Court ruling.

Besides, the presidential spokesman added, the advice of the CCP and the NCCA was recommendatory.


“It has a persuasive nature but the final prerogative rests with the President,” he said, pointing to the high court’s ruling stating that the President “may remove” but may not add to the list submitted by both bodies.

“So, was there grave abuse of discretion when the name of Ms. Nora Aunor was taken out? No, there was none,” he said at a briefing aired over government radio. “As to the reason for that, I’m not privy to the decision.”

On Sunday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the President’s choice of national artists was based on “the national interest.”


Abrera said Coloma’s explanation seemed “unclear and difficult to understand.”

Angeles stressed that Aunor deserved to be a national artist.

“In the meeting between CCP-NCCA and the OP’s honors committee early this month, questions about Nora’s tax problems and purported drug use were raised. CCP-NCCA clarified that Nora never had a tax evasion case and the drug case in the US was stricken off the record in 2007,” Angeles said.

Morality is not in the present guidelines of choosing a national artist, Angeles said.

According to Angeles, the committee on honors, in confirming the choices of the joint boards of the CCP-NCCA, needed to check two things: “That the process was completed and that the nominee is of ‘good standing.’”

Good standing

The term “good standing,” like “good moral character,” is subject to interpretation and its definition can evolve with the changes in society, she said.

Aunor was approved by the honors committee based on these two standards, Angeles said.

She said Aunor could be nominated again. “She doesn’t have to go through the entire process from square one because she has already hurdled all the stages.”

Just like Santos, Aunor’s name can be inserted in the next batch of nominees. “Santos’ case set a precedent. A nominee who was dropped by the President can be presented again by the joint board and, if the next President has no objection, can become a national artist.”

Angeles said the NCCA was standing by Aunor. “We stand by all the artists recommended by the joint boards of the NCCA and the CCP to the honors committee, including Nora.”

Nora’s ‘genius, artistry’

Angeles pointed out that Aunor went through a rigorous process. “Her works were reviewed by experts, peers and national artists. We recognize Nora’s genius, artistry and contribution to the field and her remarkable body of work.”

The CCP’s Abrera agreed: “I voted for Nora. I supported Nora. I believe she deserves to be national artist.”

Abrera expressed admiration for Aunor, who was very conscientious in making public pronouncements throughout the eight-month-long wait for the proclamation, and even throughout the controversy that resulted from her exclusion.

“Of all the people involved in this issue, she is the one who has handled herself with utmost modesty and refinement. I respect and admire her for that. It breaks my heart that she failed to become a national artist,” Abrera said.–With a report from TJ Burgonio



Nora Aunor’s fans, backers ain’t giving up yet

6 new National Artists named; Nora Aunor snubbed

Long delay in proclamation of new National Artists riles culture sector

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • JoshuaMalvas36


    We would like to express our support
    of your decision to remove Ms. Nora Aunor’s name from the list of new National
    Artists. Excluding Ms. Aunor’s name from the list is not a denial of
    recognition for her brilliance as an artist. There is no shortage of adulation over and acknowledgment of Ms. Aunor’s talent. One
    need not look further than all the awards she has received all these years even
    after her own admission of possession of illegal drugs that led to her criminal
    conviction. The fact of her conviction for possession of illegal drugs may have
    been expunged, but the fact of her admission, and conviction due to said
    admission still remains. It is indelibly etched in everyone’s memory and will
    remain in the annals of Philippine entertainment history– made especially so
    by reports of her continued use of illegal drugs, and alcohol, including her
    addiction to gambling that are still abuzz among the show biz circles. We are a
    forgiving people. Ours is a culture that’s quick to embrace an erring son or
    daughter, for as long as he or she shows remorse, contrition, and demonstrates
    reform. Sadly, that is not the case here. Ms. Aunor has been given second
    chances numerous times. Yet, in her 61 years she has yet to learn her lesson
    and make better of herself. We applaud your exclusion of her name, as it
    amounts to sending Ms. Aunor the clear message that WE REFUSE TO BE HER

    We are cognizant of the fact that nobody’s perfect—none of our National
    Artists are without flaws. But flaws and all, they have demonstrated a desire
    to continue to better themselves in their personal and public lives. And most
    importantly, none of them have admitted to and been convicted of a crime. We
    believe that even though the criteria for selection of the National Artists
    specifically and solely revolve around the artistic merits of a nominee, it is
    implicit that he or she must possess the qualities of a person worthy of
    emulation. For how can someone be a source of “inspiration for current and
    future generations of artists” when he or she continues to bring shame,
    and embarrassment, and cause ridicule to the art community that he or she
    purportedly represents? A National Artist must hold him or herself to a higher
    standard than an ordinary citizen in the way that he or she conducts herself
    both in the art community, and his or her personal life. We simply cannot
    afford to divorce one from the other. Doing so would send the Filipino people,
    the youth most especially, the wrong message: That one gets a free pass for as
    long as one has artistic abilities. This is exactly the double standard that we
    should avoid at all costs!

    As we mentioned earlier in the
    beginning of this letter, there is no shortage of adulation over Ms. Aunor’s
    brilliance as an artist. Isn’t that recognition enough? Being National Artist
    is a completely different ball game. The implications and ramifications are
    more complex than just recognizing an actor’s brilliant performance, or
    contribution to the upliftment of Filipino arts and culture. Awardees should be
    held to a higher standard. Standards that unfortunately Ms. Aunor miserably
    falls short of! If our taxes are going to be appropriated for someone who’s
    supposed to be an exemplary Filipino in her field, then we, as citizens of this
    country, have the right to make a determination whether we would like to give
    her our hard-earned money or not. And you, Mr. President, being our duly
    elected representative on matters like these made the right decision NOT to
    allocate our taxpayer’s money to somebody who has not lived up to the standards
    that’s expected of her to live up to, moral or otherwise. While her supporters
    speak of injustice undeservedly, as they claim, accorded to Ms. Aunor for
    having been excluded from the list of new national Artists, they fail to
    appreciate the grave injustice that Ms. Aunor’s confirmation would cause the
    Filipino taxpayers. One would wonder if indeed the ordinary, hard-working
    Filipinos, who struggle to make both ends meet daily would willingly allow
    their taxes to be given away for a lifetime to someone like Ms. Aunor, who
    arguably may be the greatest artist this country has ever seen, yet who has led
    her life in a manner that’s less than exemplary. We think not! Mr. President,
    if your office doesn’t see Ms. Aunor fit to be bestowed such an honor, that’s
    your prerogative. The Supreme Court has said so. And we support you without
    reservation. We admit, as we’re sure you do, too, that Ms. Aunor is a brilliant
    actress. Her acting awards local and international are proof. But judging from
    how she has conducted herself all these years: her personal life, her
    character–she is no national artist!

    We admire your courage in going
    against the grain, and for standing your ground and not letting yourself be
    swayed by the clamor of the few!

    We close with this quote from Abraham Lincoln, which we believe befits
    this issue at hand: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and
    some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the

    Thank you!

    • educo

      “We are a forgiving people.”

      No you are not. You are a narrow minded prig spouting conservative values that have no place in the arts. If artists were just as petty and self-righteous they would never create anything new exciting and original.

    • nestorD

      9 years after her drug problem, NAGBAYAD NA AT NAGDUSA ano pa GUSTO NYO? ganyan pa rin ang PAGTINGIN NYO?

      santo ba ang hinahanap nyo?


      Akala ko ba mapagpatawad ang pinoy?

    • nestorD

      NO… this is only a letter in disguise of hypocrisy,,,,

    • nestorD

      kayo na lang ang natitirang hindi nagbabago… crab mentality… mga GALIT SA GUSTONG BUMANGON…AT MAGBIGAY DANGAL SA IBA

    • nestorD

      well my FRIEND, WHO EVER another STAR in your MIND, tiyak ko, mahahalungkat pa rin ang DUMI nya

  • Garo Ungaro

    Remember there’s always two sides to make it a coin, In the context of political sides she will not win all the attributes of the political reality she lost and will never make it? It’s subjective world reality of politics. But if on the art world by its standards she wins the attributes of the arts favor her. The final decision comes from the political side thats why she lost it?…There are many subjectives, personal reasons why?…But in the end politics got the final answer?..But she wins the accolade of the art world…Time will be the judge….Meantime life goes on.

  • Flip Sapien

    Basta ako sa ginawa ni Pinoy kay Nora di ko iboboto ni isa man kandidato na suportado ni Pinoy sa 2016.

  • Pulis Na Pogi

    i couldn’t care less if this national artist award does not cost taxpayers money. but because of the emoluments being shouldered by the people, i believe that this award should be scrapped altogether. if the artists’ groups insist on continuing this, let them shoulder the bill. for those who want to argue against me, read on first the privileges of these national artists:

    1. The rank and title of National Artist, as proclaimed by the President of the Philippines (ok lang ito actually);

    2. The insignia of a National Artist and a citation; (ok pa rin ito)

    3. A lifetime emolument and material and physical benefits comparable
    in value to those received by the highest officers of the land such as: a cash award of One-Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱100,000.00) net of taxes, for living awardees; (dyusko po! tax ko ang source nito! karamihan sa mga awardees nito e mga mayayaman na tapos bibigyan ko pa sila ng pera?)

    4. a cash award of Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (₱75,000.00) net of taxes, for posthumous awardees, payable to legal heir/s; (same argument as number 3)

    5. a monthly life pension, medical and hospitalization benefits; (same argument as number 3)

    6. life insurance coverage for Awardees who are still insurable; (same argument as number 3)

    7. a state funeral and burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani; (ok lang uli ito)

    8. a place of honor, in line with protocolar precedence, at national state functions, and recognition at cultural events; (ok na rin ito)

    in summary, ok lang basta wag nang gumastos ang taong bayan sa award award na ito…

  • solamente

    Ang dapat gawing national artists ay ang dalawang superhero.

    National artists for plundering the wealth of the nation.

  • cecilia

    National Artist awards go beyond talent for Christ’s sake! NCAA does not seem to understand this. Very disappointing! All you do is complain and complain, thinking probably it is art expression to rebel or go against the tide. IMMATURE organization. In Arroyo’s time, Caparas was appointed, and the true national artists complained. His name was eventually delisted. Imee and Imelda are just bullying Malacanang, and that what this fight is all about — the Marcoses. I don’t even think Nora Aunor gives a hoot whether she receives an award or not!!

  • completelybaffled

    Forgiving does not mean giving her the NA Award. Let’s not diminish the prominence of the National Artist Award by handing it over to a convicted criminal. Learn from the USA, they don’t award national awards to some Oscar award winners. It is totally a different league.

  • bosesprobinsyano

    Its the people – in the proper time , that declare who is the hero or who should be honored . Nora Aunor and her fans should not insist. Honor will come when its due.
    Not only her being involved in drugs , but the fact that she may still
    do something not honorable, are enough reasons that she should not be.
    ACT, the artists and other groups should not ride on the situation. There are many
    concerns that the country are facing . The farmers- those who toil the
    land and feed the people- but are hungry, have no water and could not
    buy medicine when sick, need to be honored and deserve more attention
    and support. Next nomination, next batch , bill and etc, there area still many ways to declare Nora if she really deserves.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94