Cinema owners sue FDCP for imposing "unconstitutional" film-screening rules

Cinema owners on Film Development Council of The Philippines' guaranteed three-day screening, no split screening, and ticket-pricing rules: "FDCP MC No. 2019-01 must be declared invalid and unconstitutional and Respondent be permanent enjoined from implementing/enforcing the same."


“Invalid” at “unconstitutional” diumano ang bagong film-screening rules na ipinatupad ng Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), na pinamumunuan ni Chairperson Liza Diño.

Ito ang reklamo ng asosasyon ng mga negosyanteng nagmamay-ari ng mga sinehan sa bansa, o mas kilala bilang Cinema Exhibitors Association of The Philippines, Inc. (CEAP).

Kaugnay ito ng Memorandum Circular No. 2019-01 ng FDCP, na may titulong POLICIES AND GUIDELINES ON THE THEATRICAL RELEASE OF FILMS ON PHILIPPINE CINEMAS.

Na-publish ito sa Philippine Daily Inquirer noong June 25, 2019.

Itinalaga rin ng FDCP na “for compliance” na ang Memorandum Circular ng mga sinehan simula July 10, 2019.

Kabilang sa Memorandum Circular ang “guaranteed” three-day screening period para sa bawat pelikula at seven-day “minimum run-length” ng Filipino films sa lahat ng mga sinehan.

Sabi sa isang guideline: "Full screens must be assigned to the film booked for the first three (3) days of its run. No screen splitting." 

Pati ang recommended movie ticket price—PHP200 sa Metro Manila at PHP150 sa mga probinsiya—para sa mga estudyante kada Miyerkules ay nakapaloob din sa Memorandum Circular.

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Pero mariing tinutulan ng cinema owners ang diumano’y maling pakikialam ng FDCP sa kanilang business operations.

Gayong ang saklaw na mandato raw ng FDCP ay may kinalaman lamang sa “artistic” at “technical merits” ng pelikula.

Base ito sa kopya ng isinampang reklamo ng CEAP laban sa FDCP sa Quezon City Regional Trial Court, na may petsang July 5, 2019. Pormal na natanggap ito ng korte noong July 8, 2019.

Pagsusuma ng CEAP sa gustong ipatupad na rules ng FDCP para sa cinema owners:

“Essentially, the MC seeks to regulate the business operations and decisions of cinema owners and exhibitors.

“It is regulating the date of opening of films in theaters, the number of days of films' exhibition, the decision of exhibitors to use full screen or 'screen splitting' for film exhibitions, the showing of Filipino and foreign films, and the pricing of movie tickets.

“Further, in the MC, the Respondent has assigned tasks to an association (herein Petitioner) it has no jurisdiction over.”

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NO AGREEMENT AT THE MEETINGS

Ayon sa sinumpaang salaysay ng CEAP, noong Marso ay nagpatawag ng tatlong meetings ang FDCP kasama ang CEAP at film producers.

Noong una ay “booking guidelines” lang daw ang napag-usapan.

Pero hindi raw akalain ng CEAP na ang mga sumunod na meetings ay magreresulta sa Memorandum Circular ng FDCP, na mariing inalmahan ng theater owners.

April 25, 2019 nang magsagawa ng “public consultation” ang FDCP para sa lahat ng theater operators at owners na nagpapalabas ng Filipino at foreign films.

Noong May 2, 2019, nagpadala pa raw ng sulat ang CEAP kay FDCP Chairperson Liza Diño upang iparating na naiintindihan ng cinema owners ang magandang intensiyon ng Memorandum Circular.

Gayunman, iginiit ng cinema owners na wala sa mandato ng FDCP ang pagpapatupad ng film-screening rules.

Pero itinuloy pa rin daw ng FDCP ang pag-iisyu ng Memorandum Circular, na ibinahagi ni Chairperson Liza sa kanyang Facebook, noong June 25. 

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CEAP SAYS FDCP HAS “NO REGULATORY POWERS”

Sa reklamo ng CEAP sa QC RTC, isinama nito ang Minutes of Meeting ng Senado at Kongreso na bumuo ng Republic Act 9167—o AN ACT CREATING THE FILM DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES, DEFINING ITS POWERS AND FUNCTIONS, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFORE, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. 

Ito ay upang ipakita raw na ang pagpapalakas ng film industry ang main purpose ng FDCP. Kaugnay nito, pinapangunahan nito ang pagbibigay ng “incentives” at “rewards” sa film producers na gumagawa ng mga dekalidad na pelikula.

Ang “incentives,” base sa Minutes of Meeting ng Senado at Kongreso, ay tumutukoy sa pagbaba ng buwis na ipinapataw sa mga pelikula sa oras na makakuha ito ng mataas na grado mula sa Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB).

(Ang CEB, na binuo ng FDCP, ay nagbibigay ng 100 percent tax rebate sa Graded A na mga pelikula at 65 percent tax rebate para sa Graded B na mga pelikula.)

Sa isang bahagi ng kanilang petisyon, isinama rin ng CEAP ang paglalarawan ni Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III sa kaibahan ng FDCP sa Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

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Si Senator Sotto ang noo’y chairman ng Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, na kasama ng counterpart nito sa Kongreso, ay nanguna sa pagpupulong ng lawmakers na bumuo ng FDCP, alinsunod sa RA 9167.

Pahayag ni Senator Sotto sa bicameral conference meeting noong May 16, 2002 (bold text provided):

“The MTRCB is mandated to determine the audience suitability and grants permits for public exhibitions while the Film Development Council is laid on the basis of artistic and technical merits as well as the value of cinema and social and cultural transformation.”

Giit pa ng CEAP, “Nowhere in the aforesaid provisions is the FDCP vested by law to regulate Philippine cinemas, in its business operations and undertakings, which could be tantamount to a Constitutional prohibition against non-impairment of contractual obligations.”

Kung ang pagbabasehan ay ang minutes ng Senado at Kongreso, walang nabanggit na saklaw ng FDCP ang pagpapalabas ng pelikula sa mga sinehan.

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Ito ang sinasabi ng CEAP na lumabas ang FDCP sa mandato nito: "By issuing the MC, Respondent has exceeded its authority and has acted beyond its mandate. The MC, therefore, constitutes unauthorized administrative legislation, which is invalid and unlawful."

Dagdag pa ng CEAP, the FDCP which is a "part of the executive branch, is trying to assume the powers of the legislature by arrogating unto itself authorities that were never granted by law."

ALLEGED VIOLATION OF "SEPARATION OF POWERS"

Ayon pa rin sa petisyon ng CEAP, patuloy silang sumusuporta sa pagsulong ng film industry sa bansa.

Patunay raw nito ang kanilang pag-extend ng film screenings ng Filipino films na tinatangkilik ng moviegoers.

"We gather together for the weekly Tuesday booking meetings where the Film Producers/Distributors discuss about their upcoming titles.

“We also have separate meetings from time to time to discuss and/or raise any specific concerns.”

Ang siste, nakadepende lang umano ang cinema owners sa demand ng viewing public kung ano ang mga pelikulang ipalalabas at kung gaano katagal ang mga ito sa sinehan.

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“Curtailment of such decision-making process could be counter-productive to the local film industry.

“If the public loses interest in going to the cinemas due to the showing of films they would not want to watch, then it will adversely affect said industry.”

Ayon pa rin sa cinema owners, hindi rin naman daw nila saklaw ang “creative process” ng film producers. 

Sa huli, hiling ng CEAP: 

“WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that FDCP Memorandum Circular No. 2019-01 be declared invalid for Respondent's lack of legal mandate and for being an unauthorized administrative legislation, and be declared unconstitutional for violating the principle of separation of powers under the Philippine Constitution, and Respondent be permanently enjoined from enforcing the same.”

CEAP AND FDCP BOARD OF TRUSTEES

Nasa Annex A ng sinumpaang salaysay ng CEAP ang listahan ng mga pangalang bumubuo ng FDCP, na tumanggap ng initial letter of complaint ng cinema owners noong Mayo.

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Patunay raw na natanggap iyon ni Liza ang signature of receipt nito bilang chairman at CEO ng FDCP.

Kabilang naman sa Board of Trustees ng FDCP, na nakatanggap din ng sulat ng CEAP noong Mayo, sina Anna Abalahin (League of Cities of the Philippines), Anna Buenafe (Board of Investments), at Teddy Co (National Commission for Culture and the Arts).

Ganoon din ang FDCP Board of Trustees na sina Leo Martinez (Film Academy of the Philippines), Chris Millado (Cultural Center of the Philippines), Rochelle Ona (Metro Manila Development Authority), Khristine Palumbarit (Department of Education Main Office), at Rolando Tolentino (UP Film Institute - Media Center).

Bukas ang PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) sa anumang pahayag ng mga personalidad na nabanggit sa artikulong ito. 


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