Dan Fernandez seeks House probe into ‘Honor Thy Father’ controversy

Vernise Tantuco
Dan Fernandez seeks House probe into ‘Honor Thy Father’ controversy
Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez also shares how John Lloyd Cruz took the disqualification

MANILA, Philippines – Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez filed a resolution  seeking a House probe into the disqualification of Honor Thy Father from the Best Picture category of the Metro Manila Film Festival Awards (MMFF) 2015. (READ: ‘Honor Thy Father’ receives thunderous applause as it wins 5 awards at 2015 MMFF awards)

Dan, who has been an actor before he joined politics, played a supporting character in the movie. Other representatives of the movie present during the filing of House Resolution 2851 on Monday, December 28, were film producer Dondon Monteverde and lawyer Agnes Maranan. 

In an interview with reporters after his press conference. Fernandez said that through the investigation, lawmakers will find out the rules governing the disqualification.

Responding to questions, he later added: “I think hindi naman sinabotahe. May mga loopholes na ‘yon, we have to correct. Kasi yung mga loopholes na ‘yon, if not checked, will happen again.” (READ: DGPI condemns disqualification of ‘Honor Thy Father’ in MMFF 2015 category)

(I don’t think we were sabotaged. There are loopholes that we have to correct them. Because those loopholes, if not checked, will happen again.)

Fernandez compared Honor Thy Father’s disqualification to that of presidential aspirant Grace Poe’s disqualification from running for the 2016 elections – except that in the case of the film, there was no room for reconsideration. 

Kay Grace Poe nga meron siyang tsansa to file an MR (motion for reconsideration) eh. Ito, wala kang MR (Grace Poe had a chance to file an MR. For this, we didn’t have an MR). You were not even invited. Even your lawyers were not invited to be a part of the disqualification. This is dictatorship,” said Fernandez.

Honor Thy Father was disqualified from the category on December 26, a day before the festival’s awards night.

‘Protection for future filmmakers’

During the press conference, Monteverde said although the awards have been given already, he still wants to push through with the investigation.

“I’m not gonna sit there and do nothing about it. At marami kasi diyang mga batang filmmakers na dadaan din dito sa festival na ‘to di ba….Isa tayo sa dapat magsalita. Dapat proteksyonan natin ang future ng mga darating na filmmakers, na sana hindi nila sapitin ang sinapit ng pelikula namin.”

(There are a lot of young filmmakers who would go through this festival….We should be among the ones to speak up. We should protect the future of the up-and-coming filmmakers, so that hopefully that they won’t suffer what our film suffered.)

Fernandez and Monteverde were the only representatives of the film present at the filing of the resolution, but other members of the cast were affected by the disqualification as well.

Fernandez shared after the press conference that the movie’s star, John Lloyd Cruz, was sad about the disqualification because he also co-produced the film.

“He was hoping still, at the end of the day, last night [at the festival’s awards night], na mababago yung desisyon nila, na mapasama pa rin yung Honor Thy Father, na makasama sa Best Picture category. Pero never yun nangyari,” shared Fernandez. (READ: MMFF 2015 entries ‘Nilalang,’ ‘Honor Thy Father’ pulled out of some cinemas)

(He was hoping still, at the end of the day, last night that their decision would change, that Honor Thy Father would be included in the Best Picture category. But that never happened.)

Director Erik Matti won the Best Director award at the festival, but did not show up to receive it. He instead gave a statement through a representative, asking filmmakers and moveigoers to work towards change in the industry. (READ: FULL LIST: Winners, MMFF 2015 awards night)

Give the MMFF back to the industry

MMFF overall chairman Emerson Carlos said prior to the awarding ceremony on Sunday that the MMFF is not afraid of any investigation. He told reporters, “We will answer it. Haharapin po natin lahat iyan (We will face all of it). We are not afraid of any investigation that may be conducted by anybody, by any institution.”

On Monday, Fernandez responded to Carlos’ statement, saying, “I would like to remind him, ako ay isang hamak na congressman (I am just a humble congressman)… pero (but) this is not my power. This is the power of the institution to investigate them.”

He added: “Hindi ako yung may kapangyarihan, kundi ang buong Kongreso. Kaya sana, ‘wag sana sila magsalita ng ganon kasi nakakasakit sila ng damdamin ng institution (I’m not the one who has the power, but the whole Congress. So I hope they don’t speak that way, because it hurts the feelings of the institution).”

Fernandez also said that Carlos has not answered his calls or texts since the disqualification.

Before Fernandez left, reporters asked him if he believed that the MMFF should be handled by members of the film industry, not the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), as people have said in the past.

Fernandez replied: “MMDA – traffic nga eh, hindi nila ma-solve. Basura, hindi nila ma-solve. Yung mga pagkakagulo ng mga ano, di nila ma-solve. Ibalik na sa industriya yan (They can’t solve the traffic. They can’t solve the trash. They can’t solve problems. Give it back to the industry).”

‘Arbitrary, selective’

During the press conference that followed the filing, Maranan told reporters what they were trying to find out through the investigation.

She questioned why the MMFF Executive Committee took a month and a half to disqualify the movie from the category.

Honor Thy Father was included in the MMFF lineup on October 23, when a movie in the original lineup announced in June backed out. (READ: MMFF 2015 clarifies ‘Honor Thy Father’ disqualification)

By October 23, the producers of Honor Thy Father said they had already agreed to be the opening film at the Cinema One (C1) Originals Film Festival as its opening film. This did not generate any revenue, and was by invitation only.

The producers and C1 Originals festival organizers attested to this on November 5 as the MMFF regulations required.

MMFF officials told Honor Thy Father‘s producers that they were disqualified from the Best Picture category on December 26, a day after the festival’s movies were released in cinemas, and a day before the awards night.

“Sabi nga ni Congressman Dan (Congressman Dan said), the showing of the Cinema One festival was not a secret showing. This was done in Trinoma, this was a public showing. Everybody knew there was a Cinema One Festival. It’s not [a] paid [screening] but it was done in Trinoma of course [the MMFF Executive Committee] knew, as they admitted,” said Maranan.

On December 27, the MMFF Executive Committee released a statement confirming that they received the November statements, but said the basis for disqualification was producer Dondon Monteverde’s statement in October that the film complied with the rules.

Kung ‘yun talaga ang basis kung bakit kami dinisqualify – non-disclosure – dapat [ginawa nila] bago siguro gumastos (If that’s really the basis for disqualification – non-disclosure – they should have done it before money was spent), before the producers had expended time, resources, and everything in order to promote the movie for the filmfest.”

Maranan also wanted to know the details of the meeting wherein the committee decided to disqualify the movie from the category.

“The juror voting for Best Picture occurred before December 25, definitely, kasi (because) the awards is [on] December 27 eh. So certainly, bago mag-Pasko, may juror voting na (Before Christmas, the juror voting already happened). So we were disqualified after the juror voting.”

There was a lack of due process, she said, and the committee offered the movie producers no time to appeal after they were informed of the disqualification.

Maranan said there are no rules in the MMFF guidelines that dictate what she called a “semi-disqualification.” The only penalty in the rule book is disqualification of the whole movie.

“Napaka-arbitrary yata, napaka-subjective ng pag-disqualify niyo, kasi isang category lang, and there’s nothing in the rules, by the way ah, na kung may ginawa kang ganito, disqualified ka sa category ng Best Picture, said Maranan.

(The disqualification was so arbitrary, very subjective, because it was just in one category, and there’s nothing in the rules, by the way, that if you do something like this you get disqualified in the Best Picture Category.) – Rappler.com

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Vernise Tantuco

Vernise Tantuco is on Rappler's Research Team, fact checking suspicious claims, wrangling data, and telling stories that need to be heard.