Actors ask court to order MMDA to release MMFF proceeds
MANILA, Philippines—The country’s organization of movie actors asked on Wednesday the Quezon City court to compel the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which organizes the annual Metro Manila film festival, to release some P82.7-million worth of proceeds from screenings in previous years to their rightful beneficiaries.
Likewise the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP), through its director-general and actor Leo Martinez, sought a court order to prevent the National Cinema Association of the Philippines (NCAP) from remitting to the MMDA tax proceeds of the recently concluded Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) claiming that they would “again form part of the pool of fund, which has not been accounted for and has not reached its intended beneficiaries.”
In its 13-page petition for mandamus—a legal remedy in case any board, corporation or person neglects the performance of an act required by law as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station—the petitioner named as respondents the MMDA, the MMFF executive committee, chairman Francis Tolentino, and the NCAP.
According to FAP, the MMFF, which has been consistently held for 39 years, is not solely intended to showcase Filipino talent and artistry but also to raise revenue for the benefit of ordinary workers in the film industry. “Quite unfortunately, however, these identified beneficiaries do not consistently reap the benefits intended for them,” it said.
The FAP cited an executive order of the Metro Manila Commission, which provides that amusement tax proceeds are to be remitted to the MMFF executive committee as trustee of the funds for the festival beneficiaries. The MMFF Fund is made up of all amusement taxes, other non-tax revenue and fees received after deducting all operational and incidental expenses of the festival.
Initially the MMFF was launched in 1975 to raise money for needy movie workers, who are mostly members of the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation (Mowelfund) Inc. But in 1986, when the management of the MMFF was transferred to the MMDA, the agency identified other beneficiaries, including: the FAP, the Motion Picture Anti Film Piracy Council (MPFAPC), the Optical Media Board (OMB), and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).
The implementing rules and regulations of the MMDA executive order also provides for the specific distribution of the funds where Mowelfund is to receive half of the total proceeds; the FAP, 20 percent; the MPFAPC, another 20 percent; and 5 percent each to the FDCP and OMB.
However, the FAP claimed that an October 30, 2009, the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the MMFF funds for the years 2002 to 2008, cited several violations by the MMFF executive committee in the handling and disbursement of the funds.
The COA special audit report said that the MMFF executive committee had spent more than P102 million in undocumented disbursements out of the total P216.6 million amusement tax proceeds of the film festival from 2002 to 2008 and released only over P130.3 million of the sum to the actual beneficiaries.
It further said that the MMFF fund still had a balance of more than P82.7 million film from amusement tax proceeds from 2002 to 2008.
The FAP maintained, “No discretion was afforded to the (MMFF) Executive Committee allocation or even disbursement of the funds…Verily when the law providing for the duty is complete as to the manner by which said duty is to be performed, the same becomes purely ministerial.”
“Further, the fact that the respondents are ‘trustee’ under the original intent of the executive order…already created in them the duty to hold the fund in trust and for the benefit of herein petitioners so much so that a dereliction of this duty would amount an actionable wrong,” the group added.
They further said, “What renders it all the more imperative to issue the writ (of mandamus) herein sought is the danger of continuous depletion of the MMFF Fund while under the trust of herein respondents.”
The FAP also asked the Quezon City court to issue a temporary restraining order and a subsequent writ of preliminary injunction for members of the NCAP who are mandated to remit on January 27, or 20 days after the last day of the film festival, proceeds of the amusement tax to the MMFF executive committee.
Should movie theater owners and operators remit the proceeds from the 2013 MMFF, they said, it would inflict continuous prejudice and damage on them as they will “again be short-changed of what is actually due them.”