Newly elected NCCA head Nick Lizaso’s ties with Imelda Marcos was questioned online

January 17, 2020 - 6:44 PM
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CCP 50th anniversary
New NCCA Chair and CCP President Nick Lizaso with Imelda, Bongbong and Imee Marcos, and other officials (Imee Marcos/Released)

The National Commission for the Culture and Arts (NCCA)’s newly elected chairman Nick Lizaso got a spotty record for his ties with Imelda Marcos.

NCCA posted the announcement of electing Lizaso, who is also the president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, on Facebook.

“Mr. Lizaso, who is the concurrent president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, was elected by the Board of Commissioners of the NCCA during the most recent Board Meeting held on January 16, 2020. Lizaso will be leading Commission as Chairman, serving for the term 2020 until 2022,” the agency said on January 16.

Some welcomed the change of leadership after National Artist Virgilio Almario held the position for three years.

Other cultural observers, however, were disappointed, citing his supposed lack in credentials and relationship with the Marcos family, particularly Imelda.

Art critic and writer Katrina Stuart Santiago described Lizaso as “the worst choice” to lead any cultural-related organization.

“Nick Lizaso, the worst possible person to become head of any cultural agency, with no credibility and no credentials, and I said so when he gunned for the Cultural Center of the Philippines, is now Chairperson of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts,” Santiago said.

#NickLizaso, the worst possible person to become head of ANY cultural agency, with no credibility and no credentials,…

Posted by Katrina Stuart Santiago on Thursday, January 16, 2020

Award-winning writer Jerry B. Grácio also questioned his qualifications to lead the main government agency for promoting and developing Filipino culture and the arts.

“Having written Talong, Itlog, and Sisid in my early years as screenwriter, I will not judge Nick Lizaso, the new NCCA chair, who directed Flor de Liza, a far better film than Talong,” Grácio said.

“But seriously, what are his other qualifications, aside from being close to the Marcoses and Digong?” he added.

Spoken word artist-actor Juan Miguel Severo also expressed his opposition on Twitter.

“The pro-drug war boomer behind that CCP dinner for Imelda the other night has just been elected as the new NCCA chair! Surprise!” Severo said.

Severo was referring to the lavish dinner hosted by the CCP last January 15 to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The event also honored Imelda, CCP’s founder, and both Bongbong and Imee were also guests.

Ties with the Marcoses and the president

While Lizaso is not vocal on his political views, his evident support to President Rodrigo Duterte in photos and inviting Imelda and her family to official events were enough to place him under scrutiny.

Duterte even previously appointed him as NCCA chair last December.

However, the agency itself denied it given that the post is elective, not appointive, based on the decision of the heads of the commission.

Meanwhile, the recent anniversary dinner was denounced by former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Etta Rosales and ACT Teachers party-list Representative France Castro.

In November 2018, the Sandiganbayan convicted Imelda of seven counts of graft due to her participation in several non-government organizations in Switzerland from 1978 to 1984.

She was supposed to serve six to 11 years in prison. However, she was never arrested.

A veteran in TV, theater and film

Lizaso held a colorful 60-year career in theater, television and film.

Among his achievements include co-founding the Philippine Educational Theater Association with Cecile Guidote-Alvarez and being the only Asian artist invited to be part of the jury of the 6th International Student Theater Festival held in Belarus in 2009.

Prior to this position, he served as the president of the Director’s Guild of the Philippines from 1983 to 1985.

In 2010, he became part of CCP’s Board of Trustees. Seven years later, he was elected as its president.