FILM DEVELOPMENT Council Chairman and CEO, Mary Liza B. Diño, has been removed from the Executive Committee (Execom) of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) after the festival’s Chairman Danilo D. Lim accused her of trying to take the festival away from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and bringing it under the management of the FDCP (Film Development Council of the Philippines).
In a letter dated July 21, Mr. Lim, who is also chairman of the MMDA, claimed that Ms. Diño has “already made efforts… as early as 2016” to transfer management of the MMFF to FDCP.
“You even wrote a letter to Malacañang asking for the extension of [the] festival period for MMFF and to transfer chairmanship of MMFF from the undersigned to you,” Mr. Lim said before adding that Ms. Diño “directly accused” MMFF of being “involved in controversies.”
“We honestly believe that your membership in the Executive Committee is no longer tenable as your actions are inimical to MMFF and reek of conflict of interest. We regret not your removal from MMFF but rather that it has come this far,” the letter said, before adding that Mr. Lim is withdrawing Ms. Diño’s appointment as a member of the Execom.
The MMFF, arguably the country’s largest film festival, is organized by the MMDA. The festival runs from Dec. 25 until the first week of January, and during that period only Filipino films are screened in theaters nationwide. The festival traces its roots to 1966 when Antonio Villegas, then the mayor of Manila City, created a Manila Film Festival. In 1975, the Metro Manila Film Festival was born. The festival’s recent grosses have reached P1 billion and its success led to the establishment of a second MMFF in the summer which was suspended because of the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.
The Execom is the overseer and implementer of the festival and includes the MMDA, film directors, the FDCP, and other industry stakeholders.
In response, Ms. Diño said in a July 24 statement that they “reached out to MMDA for further clarification on their statements reflected in their letter,” as this was the “first official communication that was received from the chairman about this matter.”
A few days earlier, MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago posted images on her Facebook account of a copy of an FDCP proposal to Malacañang which suggested extending the festival and switching management from the MMDA to the FDCP.
“We’ve been talking about this every year, Chair Diño. The MMFF belongs to the MMDA. Here is a piece of advice for you: Work on fixing the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) first before showing interest in the MMFF,” Ms. Pialago said in her post.
The PPP is an annual Filipino film festival held in September which has been organized by the FDCP since 2017.
Ms. Diño said that the proposal Ms. Pialago posted was a 2017 position paper. She said they asked the MMDA the day after the July 20 post for a clarification.
“FDCP explained that (a.) the document was a 2017 position paper of FDCP which was forwarded to the MMFF for comments and position, (b.) in a meeting in October 2017, the MMFF [Execom] discussed the document as one of the agenda, and (c.) since then up to this date, no further actions were made by any parties of the matter,” Ms. Diño said before adding that she had been part of the Execom even after the MMFF received the 2017 position paper since the MMDA invited her to be part of it.
In a separate statement, the Cinema Exhibitors Association of the Philippines (CEAP) on July 22 expressed its support for the MMDA.
“Unlike some film festivals, CEAP recognizes and appreciates the efforts of the MMDA in encouraging transparency and collaboration within the MMFF [Execom] members by involving all relevant stakeholders,” it said.
The Prodyuser ng mga Pelikulang Pilipino sa Asya, Inc. also accused the FDCP of “interference” and “intervention” in a statement dated July 20.
“We believe that the FDCP has attempted to go beyond its mandate and has intruded into duties and responsibilities that belong to other offices and agencies in the government,” the organization said. — Zsarlene B. Chua