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Friday, August 21, 2009

Young Artists on PGMA's Order of National Artists Selection Anomaly

STATEMENT of Young Artists on PGMA’s Order of National Artists Selection Anomaly

We, young artists and cultural workers condemn the manipulation of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime in the selection of this year’s Order of National Artists and hold her accountable for abuse of power and victimizing the Filipino people in a psychological “all-out war”.

Ms. Arroyo’s July 6 presidential proclamation on her engineered list and announced in July 29 through its Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita is a sham that the youth would rather not easily forgive and forget especially that the national culture and arts is at stake.

Herself beset by anomalies as Executive Director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and as Presidential Adviser on Culture, Cecille Guidote-Alvarez made it to the Order alongside three other names while Music scholar Dr. Ramon Santos was deleted from the original list of the Council of Experts composed of, as mandated by law, the Board of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the NCCA and National Artists.

Alvarez is popular in the arts community for malpractices, favoritism, questionable dissemination of public fund, the controversy on the illegal transfer of P2.5 billion National Endowment Fund for Culture and the premature appointment of then DepEd Underseceretary Vilma Labrador who is now the NCCA Chair and stunt defender of Ms. Alvarez’s designation in the Order. It was also in Ms. Alvarez’s term that during the 2005 National Cultural Summit with the theme “Breaking the Cycle of Corruption, Poverty, Pollution and Violence that progressive artists were harassed and barred from staging a lightning performance depicting the pressing issues of the country, such as corruption.

Contrary to Ms. Alvarez’s alibi that her National Artist designation is not a political gift from GMA, Malacañang’s shameless move is of the obvious, both a political and a gift in the name of public fame and funds.

The Order of National Artists is set as the highest national recognition given to Filipinos who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts and a National Artist is granted a sum of P100,000 upon awarding, a monthly stipend of P24,000, medical support, a P1-million project grant for a year and privileged burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani.

In exchange for the gift, it is possible that the monetary grant would be channeled to cultural outputs that may only serve the interests of an already isolated and unpopular GMA regime in desperate moves to stay in power and escape accountability to her corruption issues, among others.

It must be noted that in the exposé of the Arroyo’s anti-insurgency program called Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), psychological war materials proliferated in the form of komiks, powerpoint presentations, stage performances, video flash, commercial tv ads and full length film in a form of teleserye where one untitled series was a direct attack to workers striving to live in a state of unemployment, contractualization and labor exploits and the other series titled, “Ligaw na Pangarap” aimed to harass students who chose to be critical and vigilant in a time of worsening commercialized education. The number of victims of human rights violation and enforced disappearances rose to alarming figures since OBL was implemented in 2002.

The Filipino people don’t need a leader like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a national artist like Cecille Guidote-Alavarez, who no matter how much foundation they apply on their face offcam, no matter how ironed their scripts are, no matter how spectacular their visual and human exhibits are, they cannot deceive sensible and thinking artists. We call to disregard the conferment of Arroyo’s picks in the Order of National Artist, an investigation to the “honors committee” that the Malacañang claims to nominate Alvarez and a culture of respect to a democratic process to the recognition.

The Arroyo regime and her tandem in culture of corruption, Ms. Alvarez, seem to underrate the collective power of the cultural sector, who, with the solidarity of the majority basic sectors, have championed in history struggles such as the defense of freedom of expression and civil liberties. Temporal was our Black Friday grief of the Death of the National Artist Awards as we remain in staging protest art, productions and actions for democratic cause. Arroyo’s recklessness is her own demise in power.

SINAGBAYAN is Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan, an organization of young writers, enthusiasts in various art disciplines and cultural workers committed to serve the arts for the education and organization of basic sectors. It has been in the forefront of advocating a nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented arts and culture since the turn of the millennium.

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