In Defense of the Filipino Artist



In a country rife with personality politics and celebrity culture, it is not surprising that what gets the most media coverage are these two, with crucial issues that affect our daily lives being ignored.

As workers from the cultural and arts sectors, artists deserve recognition for their passion and craft, works that intelligently seek to challenge and show the human condition for what it is and is not, works which enlighten us and help us learn more about ourselves and the world we’re in.

Despite their important role in inspiring and educating the youth, most artists become marginalized and live precarious lives. They take the burden of not being properly recognized and become neglected by politicians and government leaders.

Not so with Atty. Lorna Kapunan, a staunch advocate of rights and equality. With clients from all walks of life, from the common man to the celebrity, as well as years of experience as a lawyer, Atty. Kapunan has challenged even those in authority in order to pursue justice in the name of the law.

She has fought not only for marginalized women and workers exposed to unfair labor practices. Hers is the kind of conviction that cannot be swayed by patronage politics and corrupt practices.

Back in 2009, Atty. Kapunan mustered enough courage to call out the then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for arbitrarily changing the list of national artist awardees.

As a trustee of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) at the time, she criticized presidential adviser on cultural affairs Cecile Guidote-Alvarez’s claim on how the law provides the President the conditional prerogative to name awardees other than those already recommended by the CCP and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the two government agencies responsible for the selection process.

While these two agencies follow a set of rules which ensures that all genres, forms and artists’ organizations are equally represented and recognized in the committee, they defer to the President’s executive powers for the decision and conferment. This is done after the two agencies and their respective panelists come up with a short list of candidates.

The Arroyo administration defended their position by invoking the right of the Honors Committee to suggest candidates to the President for deliberation. Kapunan countered this by clarifying how E.O. 435, which sought to amend E.O. 236, was issued in 2005 beforehand, specifying that the President shall confer the honor on the national artists based solely and explicitly on the recommendation of the CCP and the NCCA.

Kapunan’s work with the CCP shows how she stands undaunted in the face of challenges, especially in defending the rights of artists and cultural workers is at stake. This year, her senatorial run aligns with the marginalized and oppressed sectors, including our artists, whom we may deem as laborers of culture, who continue to inspire and educate us, enriching our heritage and history.

Her passion for the arts, as well as the many civic groups and advocacies she fights for may have earned the ire of enemies in high and mighty places, but her heart remains committed to serving the people.

Running under the Aksyon Demokratiko platform of H.O.P.E. (Honest Government, Opportunity for all, special privileges for none; Peace, Productivity, and Prosperity; Education and Environment for sustainable development), Atty. Kapunan’s fight for justice and equality seeks to improve the working conditions of Filipino artists, as well as rightfully empowering and acknowledging their relevance to nation-building and progress.