Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the Business Mirror’s August 12, 2009 edition, page A6.

What lack of delicadeza are they talking about? – Mrs. Cecile Guidote Alvarez on being named National Artist for Theater.

A smooth face and a high education are not necessary to be a National Artist.
– Magno Carlo J. Caparas on being named National Artist for Film and Visual Arts

Caligula made his horse a consul. Gloria Arroyo did the mad Roman emperor better. She turned national artists into horse’s asses.

The point of the exercise is for peers to pick national artists.  The fact that Gloria Arroyo has the prerogative to confer the title National Artist does not mean she’s qualified to choose who should get it.
It’s not within her competence. It’s as if the French president were to step in and dictate who gets the Palm d’ Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
It’s patently absurd for Gloria Arroyo to meddle in the selection process. But not only did she interfere, she even created a mestizo category called National Artist for Visual Arts and Film, specifically for Magno Carlo J. Caparas.

Caparas is the creator of cartoon characters Panday, Gagambino, Totoy Bato, Kroko, Bakekang and many others. But he never illustrated those cartoons. So, how did he become a visual artist?

National Patron of Cartoonists is a more honest title for Caparas.

Now I’ve never seen a Caparas film so I defer to Gloria Arroyo who, I presume, can expound on the artistic merits of Caparas classics like The Marita Gonzaga Rape-Slay: In God We Trust (1995), The Untold Story: Vizconde Massacre 2 – God Have Mercy on Us (1994), Lipa Massacre (1994), Antipolo Massacre (1993), Vizconde Massacre (1993) and other slice-and-dice obras maestras.

Mrs. Cecile Guidote Alvarez, guiding light of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), is Gloria’s National Artist for Theater.

Mrs. Alvarez certainly deserves some kind of recognition for her contribution to Philippine theater. But, instead of National Artist for Theater, why not give her the Presidential Medal of Merit, the same decoration she advised Gloria Arroyo to award posthumously to Ms. Zenaida Amador of Repertory Philippines?

If the medal was good enough for Ms. Amador whose repertory company produced internationally acclaimed actors, then it should be good enough for Mrs. Alvarez whose theater group produced locally acclaimed actors. But I digress.

Mrs. Alvarez should not be conferred, nor should she accept, any National Artist title while she’s concurrently Presidential Adviser on Culture and Arts and executive director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCAA), the agency that, along with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), picks national artists. There is a conflict of interest there whether or not Mrs. Arroyo and Mrs. Alvarez acknowledge it.
Mrs. Alvarez insists that delicadeza is not the issue. She’s right. In this dispensation famous for its utter lack of self-restraint and its uber-thick skin, propriety is never an issue. Beating the system is all that matters these days.
Education Undersecretary Vilma Labrador, NCCA chair and staunch defender of Mrs. Alvarez, explained to the Philippine Star how Cecile got in through the backdoor:  “Look at her qualifications, her caliber, she will put the other national artists to shame. Cecile, through the journey of her life, she gave her flesh and blood to theater.
“Alvarez was nominated by groups outside the NCCA and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the two bodies mandated to recommend the choice of national artist to the Office of the President. It was Fr. James Reuter, Alejandro Roces and Sen. Edgardo Angara who pushed for Alvarez’s inclusion in this year’s national artists. The President has the prerogative to name awardees recommended from outside of the NCCA and CCP.”
Well, whoop-dee-doo! All one needs are influential sponsors!
But what about those who complain about the skewed system, what can they do?
Well, nothing except grit their teeth while Magno Carlo J. Caparas, safely tucked under Gloria’s skirt, gloats and taunts “Inggit lang kayo!”