Why is a government agency tasked to manage traffic also managing a film festival?
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is under fire from filmmakers and Congress for arbitrarily disqualifying Honor Thy Father from consideration under the Best Picture category of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). The recent investigations in the House of Representatives have exposed the MMDA’s tyrannical powers, such as not following its own rules of limiting film entries to 2 per genre. The MMDA chairman, a lawyer, even said that the funds of the festival are not subject to audit by the Commission on Audit (note: absolutely wrong)!
More than the tyrannical powers of the MMDA, the quality of films participating in MMFF have deteriorated over the years in the hands of the MMDA. The quality of film entries has steadily deteriorated due to poor screening of scripts, irrelevant criteria in awarding films (previously, box office success was a factor in awarding the Best Picture), and controversial awarding ceremonies that leave good films unrewarded. These can all be reasonably traced to the lack of expertise and competence of the MMDA in filmmaking and the arts.
So why is the MMFF under the power and control of the MMDA, a traffic agency? The answer: history and its predecessor – the Metropolitan Manila Commission (MMC).
But before that, let me tell you a shocking secret: the MMDA has absolutely no legal authority to organize and operate film festivals.
In the case of MMDA vs. Bel-Air Village Association, Inc., the Supreme Court said that:
“There is no provision in R.A. No. 7924 (An Act Creating the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) that empowers the MMDA or its Council to “enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare” of the inhabitants of Metro Manila. The MMDA is, as termed in the charter itself, a ‘development authority.'”
Borrowing the words of the Supreme Court, the truth is, there is no provision in R.A. No. 7924 that empowers the MMDA or its council to “organize and operate film festivals” in Metro Manila!
Contrast this with the law creating the Film Development Council of the Philippines which in Section 5, R. A. No. 9167 is empowered “to establish, organize, operate and maintain domestic and international film festivals, exhibitions and similar activities.”
The Metro Manila Film Festival started in 1975. MMFF was established and organized by the then Metropolitan Manila Commission (MMC), a central government of Metro Manila created by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos under Presidential Decree No. 824. MMC had the legal authority to create the MMFF because it was given legislative powers. When MMC was replaced by the Metro Manila Authority (now MMDA), the legislative powers given to the former were not given to the latter.
So while the MMDA is the successor of the MMC, only MMC had the power to organize and operate the MMFF or other film festivals. The MMDA, if it looked at its own charter, should have stopped operating film festivals or asked Congress to give it such powers.
Since MMDA does not have the legal authority to operate the MMFF, it should immediately stop operating the MMFF and any other film festival. The establishment and operation of film festivals is better left with the FDCP, a government agency with the expertise and competence in filmmaking and the arts. The MMDA should focus on managing traffic and other metro-wide services.
If MMDA continues to operate the MMFF, we should call it as the Metro Manila Dictatorship Authority. Disqualifying Honor Thy Father is just the tip of MMDA’s tyrannical iceberg. We stopped a dictator before; we can stop a dictator again. – Rappler.com
Jesus Nicardo M. Falcis is a debate coach, a full-time lecturer, and a public interest lawyer. He currently teaches Politics and the Constitution in Far Eastern University.
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