The Philippines is now experiencing chaos because of the deletion of Nora Villamayor’s name for National Artist. Mr. President, this epistle is not to sway your decision regarding the National Artist Award but to enlighten your prestigious office regarding the issue which was used to eliminate Nora Villamayor.
First off, as a licensed clinician in the state of Florida whose much of my present and earlier work involved substance use and forensic cases, I must say that Ms. Villamayor is experiencing a tremendous amount of prejudices in her own country, something that she was spared from by the United States’ judicial systems. As a Filipino accused of a drug-related offense for the first time in a foreign land, Ms.Villamayor was never convicted of any crime. To avoid a long, legal battle she acquiesced to the legal advise of her counsel. She underwent counseling relative to drug use. Concomitant to that, is a drug urinalysis which she passed without further incidents. Had she violated the terms of the court order, she would have been slapped with felony and deported to the Philippines. We all know the history—she was allowed to remain in USA and granted a legal residency status.
It is my understanding that you as president of the Philippines was given power by the Philippines’ supreme court to confer or eliminate an artist. However, that power is limited and confined to the presidential decree and criteria as it is presently written. I do not have to review here those criteria as I would like to be certain that you had them in front of you as you deliberated Ms. Villamayor’s issue. If that were the case, you would have known then, that there is no morality clause in that presidential decree.
Mr. President, I am certainly hoping that you are aware that no president in a so-called democratic country has any power to create a law at whim. Your presidential obligation is to study a bill that went through congressional deliberation, and either veto or sign it. That is the extent of your power. The only time you are allowed to make an ultimate decision without congressional approval is at a time when your country is in imminent danger and the national security is at risk. Anything outside of that is dictatorship and abuse of power. Abuse of power is subject to impeachment in any democratic country whose congress knows its responsibility.
No, I do not intend to persuade your decision. I simply hope to create awareness in the minds of the Filipino citizens. I want every voting citizen to be aware of his/her rights so that those rights are not trampled upon by those who abuse their power.
Presidential decrees, bill of rights, constitutions…however they are called in that country of yours, are the backbone of democracy. But then, I hope you know that. I hope the Supreme Court and the senate know that.
Luz Nolasco Warfield, MS, LMHC