Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando's admission of receiving cash gifts obtained from the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) funds has strengthened the resolve of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to indict Fernando on charges of malpractice and corruption.
As MMDA chairman, Bayani automatically heads the MMFF board tasked to screen the films submitted by various local production outfits with intent to be included in the final roster of entries for screening come Christmas Day and the New Year.
Estrada labeled Bayani's actions as "unethical" and "anomalous." The son of former President Joseph Estrada announced, "We will submit our findings to the Office of the Ombudsman."
The senator-actor had two MMFF entries in the past two years: Katas ng Saudi in 2007 and Magkaibigan in 2008. He even won as Best Actor for Katas ng Saudi.
The MMDA chief confessed yesterday, August 26, before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that he received a total P1.6 million covering four consecutive years. GMA-7 News enumerated the complete breakdown of the amount as confirmed by Fernando himself: P500,000 (2003); P500,000 (2004); P100,000 (2005); and P500,000 (2006).
FORM OF REWARD. Bayani argued that the amount should not be questioned since the MMFF executive committee mandated the handing out of "cash gifts" as a reward for all the hard work tirelessly rendered by the entire team in ensuring the success of the annual film festival.
"The gift, which I do not agree to be called a gift, is not isolated because all sectors responsible for the success of the festival for the aforesaid year were likewise accordingly rewarded," explained the former Marikina City mayor.
Bayani—who has previously announced his bid for presidency in the upcoming 2010 national elections—likewise boasted that the earnings derived from the Yuletide festival have doubled since he assumed the top post.
In his privilege speech delivered in May this year, Estrada accused Fernando of pocketing a substantial amount of money generated from the MMFF revenues. The practice, said Estrada, significantly reduced the shares of three MMFF beneficiaries, led by the Mowelfund Film Institute—an organization founded by Jinggoy's father in 1974 to extend assistance to marginalized movie workers toiling behind the scene.
"I have no personal grudge against Chairman BF [Fernando's initials]. I stand here only to protect the interest of the beneficiaries of MMFF in particular and the movie industry in general," Estrada declared.
Senator Estrada recommended stripping the MMDA office of any involvement in MMFF affairs, instead transferring authority to an organization directly connected to the entertainment business.
Fernando—who won GMA-7's interactive reality-based singing competition Celebrity Duets in 2008—defended his ground on the issue concerning the beneficiaries by stating that Estrada could have "been misinformed of the circumstances behind these monies."