We artists and cultural workers of the University of the Philippines at Diliman strongly take exception to how the National Artists were named this year.
First, the spirit of the process was not upheld in the final selection of the awardees. We concede that any subjective decision of this nature gives rise to a range of diverse views. What we cannot accept is the corruption of this already fraught process. The art community judiciously took part in this exercise, with the hope that an evenhanded process would produce truly worthy National Artists. This good faith in government has been subverted. It has made us distrust any effort to involve us in what may ultimately turn out to be a charade, or a farce in fact, and to regard the cultural bureaucracy as helplessly beholden to the contrivances of politicians and their courtiers.
Second, there was a demonstration of significant indiscretion, or even egregious imprudence, on the part of the officials who administered the awards. It was totally amiss—unethical, dishonest, morally bereft, and abusive—that those who oversaw the process ended up being honored and reaping the gains of their own auspice. We, therefore, deplore the utter contempt for the vital value of fairness in favor of personal ambitions of Sicilian proportions.
In light of these sentiments, we call for the immediate review of the law governing the National Artist awards and the rules that carry it out. We are specifically concerned about the power of the President, acting as a patron, to supersede the judgment of art’s public sphere and the unbecoming conduct of those in the civil service who are sworn to transcend conflicts of interest and defend democratic ideals.
Finally, as members of the community of scholars, we demand and expect the full commitment to integrity, excellence, and the tireless toil for the greater good.
National Artists deserve a process equal to their stature.
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