Remarks on the Nora Initiative

by Patrick D. Flores

Photo via PositivelyFilipino.

▶︎ We are gathered here today to defend the process through which the nomination of Nora Aunor was secured. Such a process has not been found wanting in terms of procedure and judgment. I am a witness to how this process has been refined over the 12 years I had served as a member of the Council of Peers, Council ofExperts, Presentor of Nominees, and at one point a member of an independent oversight committee.  Surely it is not without its problems, but it was designed to ensure the broad participation oft he artistic community, alongside representatives of government, and to resist theploys of vested interests. With a highly layered and highly mediated process of this quality and rigor in place, we wonder how else could the President have decided otherwise? And where else could he have sought counsel?

It is a tribute, in fact, to the government to have fostered the conditions of this process to take place and an achievement of the community to have diligently participated as responsible citizens in honoring the efforts of artists in the vital work of culture in social life. By setting aside this process in the name of presidential prerogative or discretion is to actually stifle the spirit by which that power is vested.  When the National Commission for Culture and the Arts was mandated to co-administer the process, it was meant to disperse the central control of culture that had previously exclusively rested on the Cultural Center of the Philippines and to ultimately make presidential authority nearly needless because the work for government will have been performed properly and democratically.

The decision, therefore, to dishonor the nomination of Nora Aunor by the President is, to put it politely, deeply flawed and lacking in integrity or even good faith. It was weakly informed at best and unnecessarily injudicious at worst, descriptions that may ultimately translate into a waste of process, initiated by both government and people, and therefore results in nothing but sheer abuse. If there was substance that was abused here, it was this.

But we move on. Today we take a pause from our everyday tasks and invest in an auspicious moment to transcend the misdeed of the state and its transient rulers, to say nothing yet of their utter lack of charity and the complex understanding of the moral condition. Had the electorate been more discerning and exercised zero tolerance for human frailty, how many in government do you think should be given the chance to serve, let alone name National Artists?

Today, we claim Nora Aunor as truly our own, an artist of the nation and the people in the spirit of the democratic process, something that the current government has failed to completely apprehend, alongside other fundamental constitutionalities it has self-righteously overlooked.

Sabi ni Elsa sa Himala, tawagin silang lahat. At tayong lahat ay tumugon at nagtipon sa araw na ito upang ipagtanggol ang proseso ng paghirang sa Order of National Artist. Narito po tayo upang isa katuparan ang pangako ng kalayaan na pangalanan ang mga bayani ng ating buhay at angkinin ang bisa ng kanilang kabutihan. Karapatan man ito o kapalaran, narito po tayo upang pairalin ang karangalan ni Nora Aunor bilang kaganapan ng sining ng bayan. ***

These remarks were delivered by Patrick Flores on July 10 2014, for The Nora Initiative, after then President Noynoy Aquino refused to proclaim Nora Aunor as National Artist. On October 24 2018, Rodrigo Duterte refused to do the same.