MANILA, Philippines–Seeking to put the matter to rest, the head of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has written President Aquino assuring him that the commission, along with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), “respects” his decision excluding Nora Aunor from the list of national artists.
In his letter dated June 23, NCCA Chair Felipe de Leon Jr. blamed “media snoops and scribes” for the controversy, saying they had gone “overboard with their investigations and reporting of the circumstances regarding the awards.”
“Your Excellency, the NCCA and CCP fully respect your authority to exclude any nominee for the award if it is in the national interest,” he wrote, echoing a Palace statement that insisted that Aquino’s decision was based on “national interest.”
“Rest assured, Your Excellency, that we have always understood that the final decision when it comes to the National Artist Award is in your office. We continue to abide by this.”
No reason for snub
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma released copies of the letter after he was asked at a press briefing about the President’s reason for excluding Aunor from the list.
Coloma was still mum on the reason, saying only that Aquino “followed the law and jurisprudence” in picking this year’s national artists.
Malacañang spokespersons have refused to comment on suggestions that the President’s decision was influenced by “morality” issues raised against Aunor. In 2005, Aunor was caught with illegal drugs at the Los Angeles International Airport.
The NCCA and the CCP administer the Order of the National Artists, which is then conferred by the President.
Of the nominees on the list submitted to Aquino, only Aunor was excluded. The new national artists are Alice Reyes (dance), Francisco Coching (posthumous-visual arts), Cirilo F. Bautista (literature), Francisco Feliciano (music), Jose Ma. Zaragoza (posthumous-architecture, design and allied arts) and Ramon Santos (music).
In his letter, De Leon acknowledged that “passions and tensions are running high” because of the President’s decision on Aunor.
De Leon heaped all blame on the media, saying “the thrill of the hunt [for scoops] has caused them to lose restraint and respect for the truth in their accounts.”
He claimed that he only “lamented the results” on the new national artists and expressed “sadness” over the case of Aunor during interviews.
“Any sign of disrespect for your authority, Mr. President, will not and will never emanate from the NCCA or its affiliated agencies,” he said.
De Leon said the NCCA and the CCP would sit down for a meeting soon “to forge a unified stand.”