MMFF withdraws FPJ Memorial Award from ‘Oro’

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The Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) Executive Committee (ExeCom) on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of the Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award for Excellence given to the entry Oro.

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According to MMFF spokesperson Noel Ferrer, the decision was upon consultation with the family of the late Fernando Poe, Jr.

“Without making any judgment on the artistic merit of the film or cinematic depiction, the MMFF finds the present controversy on the alleged killing of a dog in the course of the filming of the movie effectively casts a doubt on the movie’s ability to exemplify the human and cultural values espoused by the late Fernando Poe, Jr,” the statement read.

The statement came a day after Senator Grace Poe has called upon the MMFF organizers to look into the matter of whether a dog was actually butchered in the course of filming of Oro.

“Aside from the possible criminal liability if indeed proven, the MMFF should also consider applicable administrative sanctions against the producers and/or filmmakers for any misrepresentation before the MMFF selection committee on this matter which in itself may already justify the movie being stripped of any and all awards,” Poe said in her statement.

‘Out of panic’
It was also on Monday when the MMFF ExeCom has conducted and mediated an inquiry on the film entry Oro after several complaints due to its dog-killing scene.

According to the ExeCom’s official statement, the inquiry was attended by representatives from the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the production team of Oro.

In a Facebook post, Film Development Council of the Philippines Chair and ExeCom member Liza Diño shared the points established by PAWS and by Oro’s production team through their legal counsels.

According to Dino, PAWS—who requested the investigation—believes members of Oro’s production violated RA 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act. However, PAWS said they are still gathering their own evidence and what they have right now are admission from some members of Oro production team who are yet to fully commit in testifying against the makers of the film.

Meanwhile, Oro’s representative allegedly admitted to lying to the committee.

“The representative of Oro who was present during the ExeCom screening admitted to lying to us and those present when she said they used a goat and prosthetics during the dog scene. They said it was out of panic. There was no attempt to retract the statement from that point on,” Diño wrote.

“ Oro production reiterated that no animal was harmed ‘for the purpose of the film.’ They said it was within the bounds of culture in that area where dogs are eaten as food,” the FDCP chair continued.

After hearing both sides, Diño wrote that the ExeCom with the two lawyers proposed a joint resolution which included: “a disclaimer in all ticket booths saying the there are graphic scenes that maybe offensive; the scene where there is an alleged animal cruelty will be ‘blackened’ and edited out; and director Alvin Yapan and Oro production will actively cooperate with PAWS toward an awareness campaign on animal welfare, without prejudice to its pursuit of public discussion in regard to other issues raised by the film.”

However, just before the committee delivers the update to the media, lawyer Toto Villareal, ExeCom member and Chairman of Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) received a call from the lawyer of PAWS saying they do not wish to participate in the joint statement with Oro.

“Suffice to say, PAWS was not satisfied with the turnout. Very understandable because they were requesting for pullout and stripping of awards, and it was not granted at the time of the meeting. Much as we want things to be decided on right then and there, please understand that as a committee, we need to reconvene and discuss all these new information before we arrive at a decision,” Diño stated.

“The MMFF posed no obstacle to the participation of the film, further to the determination of the Selection Committee, on account of the film’s prior representation that no dog was actually killed in connection with the subject depiction. The MMFF Executive Committee takes this opportunity to strongly emphasize that it has not condoned nor will ever condone any cruelty to animals. Neither will it allow the Festival to be the vehicle for any such actions,” the ExeCom separately stated through its spokesperson Noel Ferrer.

Iza Iglesias

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