• Stop ‘commercializing’ MMFF, says lawmaker

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    “We have to reform the Metro Manila Film Festival based on the findings of hearings conducted by the Committee on Metro Manila Development. The filmfest has become a highly commercialized business, sacrificing the genuine intention of showcasing Filipino creativity and talent,” Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said on Thursday during the second day of the congressional investigation of alleged irregularities in the recent MMFF.

    Rep. Winston Castelo, committee chairman, announced the creation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) that would oversee reforms and reorganization urgently needed, including dissolution of the MMFF Executive Committee (Execom) and removing it from government control.

    “Government should exercise oversight functions only as co-chairman. Let the industry handle the festival so that every centavo generated will redound to the benefit of those who need help in the industry. The disqualification of ‘Honor Thy Father’ was obviously not in order, unjust and biased, possibly to favor some other film. We also have the anomalous situation where Execom member Dominic Du was active in almost all committees, practically having the opportunity to control decisions on every level,” Atienza, a member of the Castelo committee and the TWG, said.

    Under Atienza’s questioning, it was found out that funds for beneficiaries like the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) and Mowelfund are being given on instalment basis within one year.

    [Why is the giving of shares to the beneficiaries in tranches? They are already in the losing end and yet they are given crumbs, and on instalment basis at that. Are tickets during the festival bought also on in tranches? No, in cash, therefore, the benificiaries’ share should also be given in cash. From the latest film festival that earned almost P1 billion, why would the beneficiaries get P23-24 million only]?” an obviously irked and agitated Atienza said, adding that filing of charges may be even necessary.

    He pointed out that the filmfest funds should be under the direct supervision of the Commission on Audit.

    “We should trace the direction of government funds being used in the festival rather than allow the festival to continue every year without us knowing [where the funds go],” Atienza said.

    After repeated questions from the congressman on the issue of the shares of the beneficiaries being given in tranches, MMDA Chairman Emerson Carlos said although officially he cannot comment on the issue because of a pending civil case, the chairman admitted that, in his personal opinion, it should not be given in tranches.

    Atienza commended FAP President Leo Martinez f”or giving us a clear picture of what is really going o [in the MMFF]. Members of the industry should come together and speak in one collective voice. This is the only way we can correct government abuses and injustice.”

    The festival’s precursor, the Manila Film Festival, was established in 1966 by Mayor Antonio Villegas with the original intention to help boost the local film industry.

    The Metro Manila Film Festival, which started in 1975, has now become a nationwide affair.

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