WHEN fellow Sun.Star Cebu columnist Myke Obenieta posted on his Facebook account the nomination of Philippine movie’s “superstar” Nora Aunor, I commented that this move might be opposed by “Vilmanians,” the loyal fans of “Star for All Seasons” and Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos. The careers of Nora and Vilma paralleled with each other and each have a sizeable group of fanatical followers.

It has now turned out that the Vilmanians are the least of the Noranians concern. President Noynoy Aquino left out Aunor’s name in the list of newly declared National Artists. That list was prepared by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and some National Artists, a formidable bunch for the arts. Or is the President a Vilmanian?

Aquino has still to come up with an explanation, although the Office of the President noted that it is “well within the President’s power to proclaim all, or some or even none of the recommendees” and “without having to justify his or her action.” Malacañang may just be stating reality but that statement sounded arrogant.

Declared as the country’s new National Artists were poet Cirilo F. Bautista for literature, choreographer Alice Reyes for dance and composer Francisco Feliciano for music together with two other who were given the honor posthumously: komiks novelist/artist Francisco Coching for visual arts and architect Jose Ma. Zaragoza for design and allied arts.

The current furor over Nora Aunor can be considered a reverse of what happened under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The current controversy is one of omission while the previous one was one of commission. Arroyo declared as National Artists those not included in the list given to her, including komiks novelist Carlo Caparas.

This just shows that presidents have preferences and may want to push for them.

I read somewhere that during the deliberation by the boards of the NCCA and CPP, Aunor’s name garnered much of the votes over other nominees for her category. Those outvoted included the late “comedy king” Dolphy (Rodolfo Vera Quizon).

Note that after Dolphy died in 2012, there was a forceful lobby to have him declared as National Artist, but the President, in keeping with his “Daang Matuwid” mantra, said that he would not interfere with the deliberations of the NCCA and CCP in selecting honorees.

Aquino conferred Dolphy with the Grand Collar or the Maringal na Kuwentas of the Order of the Golden Heart shortly before the comedian’s death. He obviously wanted to declare him National Artist after he died. So is the Nora Aunor snub the President’s way of saying, Dolphy first before everybody else?

The worry of those who are pushing for Aunor’s declaration as National Artist is that PNoy may have considered her not so flattering past, or the downward spiral of her career, when she got addicted to illegal drugs. That may have been in the President’s mind but other factors may have come on top of it, including his preference for Dolphy.

By the way, a National Artist receives a minimum cash award of P200,000, net of taxes, a minimum lifetime personal monthly stipend of P30,000, hospital and medical benefits amounting to P1 million a year and state funeral benefit not exceeding P500,000. That is if the National Artist is conferred the honor while still alive.

If he or she is given the award posthumously? His or her legal heirs receive P150,000 and nothing else.

Is budgetary concerns one of the reasons why the National Artist honor is often conferred to those who already died?