Case Study: The Incoherent Message of President Aquino on the National Artist Award Issue

By N Mark Castro


The problem with President Benigno S. Aquino III — among others — is that he has produced a succession of conflicting messages into his presidency that has opened himself endlessly vulnerable to criticisms.

It doesn’t help that his own (mis)communications department had been fodder for critics due to its own incompetence in managing issues and delivering news.

Comes now the highly controversial exclusion of much-loved entertainment icon Nora Aunor for the highly-coveted National Artist award.

Instead of speculating on the merits/demerits of the president’s decision, let us instead dissect his statements and the message he so wished to address to the nation.

First —

“Ang naging problema ko lang doon, alam naman nating lahat, na-convict po siya sa drugs. Na-convict at naparusahan. Ang tanong ngayon dito, kapag ginawa ba nating National Artist, may mensahe ba akong maliwanag na sinasabi sa sambayanan?” 

Rough translation: The problem I had there, as we all know, is that she was convicted of drug charges. She was convicted and punished. The question now is: if we make her a National Artist, do I have a clear message that I am telling the nation?”

The issue that the president was referring to here was Nora Aunor’s infamous 2005 arrest in the US for allegedly possessing illegal drugs. However, those same charges were dropped and, further, erased from the roster, hence, she’s as innocent as any other citizen, with no taint of doubt as opposed to the allegations of corruption against the president himself for his misuse of his pork barrel.


To add serious insult to the injury, “The President said he respects the work and achievements of the Philippine cinema’s “Superstar.”

The President also said that his late father, former senator Benigno Aquino Jr, was a fan of the actress.

“Ginagalang ko siya, kinikilala ko yung kanyang trabaho at mga obra, pero ang problema ko, mukhang mas mataas ang prayoridad na maliwanang na mensahe, yung droga, zero-tolerance tayo dito at mali all the time,” he said.

Rough translation: I respect her, I acknowledge her work and masterpiece, but my problem is, it seems there is a higher priority with a clear message on drugs. We have zero-tolerance here and it’s wrong all the time.

But even if the allegations were true, what of it?

What have they got to do with her body of work?

The world has awarded men more foolish than what she’s done and more prestigious than the National Artist Award of the Philippines, which has lost its luster, prestige, and whatever cred it ever had because of bumbling politicians.

Lest we forget — the essence of National Artist Awards is bestowed upon Filipinos who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine art … not with its futile campaign against drugs.

That Nora Aunor had contributed greatly to Philippine entertainment (art) is beyond debate to both fans and critics and shows her competence.

That the president’s campaign against drugs is such a failure is his problem and shows his incompetence.


The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) applied the most stringent of rules to vet Nora Aunor, among others, and made its recommendation to the president. Naturally, the president has every legal right to veto anything submitted to his desk; but this is a nation where the rule of law is applied depending on the whims of its polluted air. If we were to follow the rule of law, the president’s own mother, Corazon Aquino, would have never been put in power.

If we were to follow the rule of law, we never would’ve ousted Joseph “Erap” Estrada, have Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and on and on.

If we were to follow the rule of law, the jailed senators would not have comfortable prison cells as opposed to what Malacanang has allowed to happen. Writer and Musem Director John Silva challenged the clueless president when he wrote his viral piece:

“Your dad didn’t go to jail for stealing. He was into more heady stuff like a return to democracy, human rights and moral convictions. So why the hell are you treating these senators with kid gloves, these guys who can’t seem to recall, account, or sign off on billions of missing pesos?” Silva said in his letter.

The president goes on to say that he was in awe not only by the Superstar’s acting ability but also by her life story:

“From selling water in the train stations to Tawag ng Tanghalan, I’m very impressed,” Aquino said.

As he ought to be, especially since the president’s entire political career: from Congress to Senate had been nothing but impressive. Remember the viral meme that went around comparing Noynoy Aquino against a perceived incompetent Lito Lapid?


True, a good lawmaker must not be judged solely on the number of laws penned, but the quality of these laws in the interest of the public good.

But zero?

Isn’t that the same tolerance level he has on drugs/

Official records of the Senate and House of Representatives show that none of Noynoy Aquino’s principally authored bills have been enacted into law.

Remember, a bill is not the same as a law. Thousands of bills are filed every year but very few of these bills get enacted into a law. Bills become law because their authors work hard to pass these through a committee, defend its merits on the floor, get their colleagues to vote for their bills on second and third readings, and work with their House of Representatives counterparts to reconcile differences in the Senate and House versions.

What all of the above has shown is poor staff work by then Congressman and eventually Senator Benigno S. Aquino III. In the period of his tenure in Congress where he served 3 consecutive terms (1998-2001-2004), he has passed 7 bills that were never converted into law. In the Senate, zero law.

You can do the arithmetic whether or not he has done anything for his constituents, the citizenry, least of all, art.


But perhaps one of the most laughable arguments that the president has chosen in depriving Nora Aunor of her much-deserved honor as a National Artist is the president’s focus on her drug use, which is an implied testament to addiction.

Yet the president himself — the very same person that has produced Noynoying — has never wavered from his own nicotine addiction.



He is an avid smoker, and has admitted to smoking up to three packs a day. During his presidential campaign, Aquino promised to quit smoking if he wins the election. However, he decided later he would not quit smoking, preferring to do it at the “appropriate” time.

What message is he sending then?


Global Awards have been given to crazier people, drug users even, and the world has accepted geniuses despite their foray into various forms of illegal substances: from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Even Bill Clinton had his own share of his infamous and hilarious denial: “I did not inhale.”

Are we to hold them responsible for the rampant and horrific abuse of drugs? Are we to excuse their behavior?

Of course not.

But if we were to judge their bodies of work then no one can discount the fact that we owe very much how we think, behave, and act based on their contributions to technology, philosophy, science, art … mankind.



The problem in holding someone to such high standards is that you also tend to be measured against it. Since President Aquino wanted to associate Nora Aunor’s drug-related incident as a message to the country, then one can easily infer that such moral ground should be kept.

This from someone who’s own sister would just as easily fail because …

The worse part of his moralistic views is that he’s the brother of someone who’s pronounced her sexual proclivities on national television several times over, chased married men, broke marital institution, and had never been a picture of moral compass.


What message is he talking about?




About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on July 1, 2014, in General, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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