Dolphy can’t be declared national artist yet

MANILA (Updated) -- The hands of President Benigno Aquino III are tied on declaring comedy king Rodolfo “Dolphy” Quizon as national artist, a Malacanang official said Thursday.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said President Aquino recognizes the contribution of Quizon in the movie industry but he could not name the 83-year-old actor as national artist due to the existing temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing Malacanang from conferring the Order of National Artists award.

There has been clamor for Quizon to be named as national artist as he remains in critical condition due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the Makati Medical Center.

The condition of Dolphy has stabilized but he remains under observation because of his weak kidneys, his son and film director Eric Quizon said Thursday morning.

“I spoke to the President this morning, and he personally believes that Dolphy has contributed immensely to the arts. And in fact, in his words, he has contributed tremendously to what we call ‘art for man’s sake’,” said Lacierda.

“Having said that, there is a process in selecting the national artist. Right now, there is an ongoing case before the Supreme Court and I understand there is a status quo or a TRO that is pending before the Supreme Court,” he added.

In 2009, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a TRO stopping Malacañang from conferring national artist awards to director Carlo J. Caparas, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Francisco Mañosa, and Jose “Pitoy” Moreno.

The petition was filed by a group of national artists led by Bienvenido Lumbera and Virgilio Almario, accusing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of committing "grave abuse of discretion” for adding the four names to the final list of Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission on Cultural and the Arts (NCCA), the two agencies tasked to select those who will be conferred with the national artist award.

“We recognize the process and it is a very rigid process. There are several tiers in nominating a national artist. We would like to respect the process. So we will leave it with both the NCCA and the CCP because these are the two joint boards who will nominate the national artist,” said Lacierda.

He noted that in recognition of Quizon’s contribution to the field of entertainment, President Aquino awarded the veteran actor the Grand Collar of the Order of the Golden Heart.

Lacierda said there are several nominations submitted to the NCCA for Quizon to be named as national artist. But he said the ball is in the hands of the High Court at this point.

“Lest we be accused of encroaching on the powers of the Judiciary. I’m certain that the Supreme Court is fully aware of what’s going on. We do not need to remind. It’s up to them,” he said.

Malacanang, meanwhile, ensured that the process of selection of national artists in the Aquino administration will not be marred of politics.

“The Honors Code of the Philippines was originally enacted to prevent partisan politics from coming in. We would like to ensure that the process of selection of the national artist is made in accordance with the research done by the body that has devoted itself to determining if a certain artist is worthy to be conferred a national artist. It is only when it is recommended to us by both the bodies of the CCP and the NCCA that the President will act on it,” said Lacierda.

Lacierda also called on Filipinos Thursday morning to pray for the Comedy King as Dolphy remains under observation at the Makati Medical Center.

"We enjoin the Filipino people to pray for Rodolfo Quizon Sr., whom the entire nation fondly knows as 'Dolphy.' We are united in our intentions for our revered icon of the Philippine entertainment industry. The President's thoughts are with Mr. Quizon and his loved ones in these trying times," Lacierda said.

Dolphy (Rodolfo Vera Quizon Sr. in real life) was rushed to the hospital last June 9 due to pneumonia. He was diagnosed five years ago of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which, according to Eric, is a progressive disease.

Eric said COPD hinders the flow of air into the lungs, making it difficult for his father to breathe.

He said Thursday that although his father's kidneys are still weak, these "have already released urine."

"Very little, but somehow they (kidneys) are working," he said in a television interview.

He also said his father's hemoglobin count "is still very low that he had four units of blood transfused into his body today (Thursday)," but said the Comedy King's blood pressure has stabilized.

Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs, according to

Eric also said his father was able to breathe on his own for six hours Wednesday morning, but they had to attach the respirator back in order for him to continue breathing.

Eric thanked President Benigno Aquino III for the prayers and concern for his father.

"The President has given my dad so much respect. I'm very thankful that he's asked the Filipino people to pray for my dad," the film director said.

Senator Manny Villar joined Aquino in praying for the speedy recovery of the Comedy King.

Dolphy supported Villar's unsuccessful bid for the presidency two years ago, placing third.

"He is one of the few gems of the entertainment industry. His feat as a comedian will be very hard to replicate," Villar said.

Villar reiterated his call for the government to declare his ally a National Artist for his contributions to the development of Philippine cinema.

“But more than the trophies he collected, Dolphy is known as a compassionate man, donating substantial wealth and talent to assist health welfare programs and provide financial assistance to senior actors and those involved in filmmaking including extras, stuntmen, bit players, crews and technical staff,” he said.

Eric also thanked the fans and supporters of his father for their continuous prayers.

On social media sites Twitter and Facebook, prayers continue to pour in for the King of Comedy. "#PrayforDolphy" and "Dolphy" became trending topics in Twitter in the Philippines Wednesday night.

Several entertainment personalities visited the Comedy King at the hospital. Spotted at the Makati Medical Center were Maricel Soriano, Smokey Manaloto, Vhong Navarro, ABS-CBN president and COO Charo Santos Concio, ABS-CBN entertainment production head Linggit Tan, Edgar Mortiz, Janice de Belen, Ai-Ai Delas Alas and Willie Revillame, among others. (Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)