It’s confirmed: Sunday Beauty Queen, Oro, and Saving Sally are set to be distributed by Solar Pictures in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
Solar Pictures is the film arm of Solar Entertainment, a company co-owned by Wilson Tieng, who is a member of the MMFF 2016 Executive Committee and also of the Sales and Playdate Monitoring Committee.
Earlier, PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) wrote that the issue of “conflict of interest” may be brewing in the 2016 all-Filipino-movies festival, as it did in 2015.
MMFF 2016’s rules and regulations clearly set the trades that current Execom members cannot engage in.
Its Rule B2 says categorically: "Members of the MMFF Executive Committee and its sub-committees are disqualified from joining the competition in whatever capacity."
According to initial reports, Tieng of Solar Pictures would distribute Sunday Beauty Queen for MMFF 2016.
But based on Solar Pictures’ Facebook posts, Tieng’s film company is distributing in this year's film festival not just one but three entries.
FACEBOOK POSTS. On its Facebook post dated November 23, Solar Pictures announced that it is the “official distributor” of Sunday Beauty Queen for MMFF 2016.
On its Facebook post dated November 28, Solar Pictures also announced that it will “proudly” distribute Oro for MMFF 2016.
(Image & Text from Solar Entertainment)
On its Facebook post last night, December 1, Solar Pictures shared the trailer of Saving Sally.
Sunday Beauty Queen, Oro, and Saving Sally are three out of the eight official entries in MMFF 2016, which will run from December 25 to January 7.
MMFF 2016 EXECOM. Reached for comment last night, December 2, MMFF 2016 Execom member and spokesperson Boots Anson-Rodrigo has yet to respond to PEP’s query about Tieng’s links to Sunday Beauty Queen, Oro, and Saving Sally.
Last Tuesday, November 29, Boots declined to give an official statement on the initial report that Tieng of Solar Pictures is slated to distribute Sunday Beauty Queen.
At the time, the festival spokesperson told PEP, via phone interview, that she would prefer to wait after the 2016 Execom's meeting today.
For the record, she confirmed that Tieng is a member of 2016 Execom and also of the Sales and Playdate Monitoring Committee.
In an official statement sent exclusively to PEP at past three in the morning of December 3, Boots categorically said that there’s “no EXECOM rule that was violated” with Tieng being a member of the Execom and also a distributor of competing entries.
Speaking in behalf of the MMFF 2016 Execom, Boots elaborated, “There is no conflict whatsoever with the EXECOM because Sir Wilson was just approached by the independent producers to help them with the promotions, distribution, and permits especially in the provinces.
“It is more of an assistance sought rather than an intervention. And there is no EXECOM rule that was violated.”
Yet Boots added that Tieng is now no longer part of the Sales and Playdate Monitoring Committee.
“So there won't be any doubts and conflict of interests, Sir Wilson has voluntarily begged off from the MMFF monitoring and playdate committee already—even if the assignment of theaters are done by raffle by the producers themselves.”
However, this has already generated buzz among some producers.
They believe that, by the existing rules of MMFF 2016, Tieng's double duty, one as Execom member and another as distributor of competing films, openly flouts the “conflict of interest” concept.
PEP.ph wonders: Suppose every producer of any competing film "just approached" any Execom member "to help them with the promotions, distribution, and permits especially in the provinces."
Would that be all right? There would be no violation? If so, it becomes a free for all. So, why even make rules?
Or is this a case of moving the goal post in mid-game? It felt like it when festival rules changed from a categorical only "finished films" would be accepted, announced at the festival's launch, to "picture lock films" would be accepted, announced days before the deadline of submissions.
Is this the case again? If so, can it be that, for 2016, no MMFF rule is really sacred? When will the rules change again?
Notwithstanding the denial of the MMFF, PEP has to ask: Can Wilson Tieng be a member of the festival's highest set of officials, the Executive Committee, and still be the distributor of three competing festival entries?
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF? Last March 1, in a PEP.ph interview, Honor Thy Father producer Ronald “Dondon” Monteverde talked about Tieng being embroiled in an issue of “conflict of interest” back in MMFF 2012.
At the time, Tieng was an MMFF Execom member and also the distributor of the MMFF 2012 entry, Thy Womb.
In the same interview, Dondon told PEP that it was Star Cinema’s managing director Malou Santos who raised the issue involving Tieng’s link to Thy Womb.
But, in this year’s film festival, Dondon has yet to be heard saying anything about Tieng’s links to the three competing entries.
Last year, Dondon and Honor Thy Father director Erik Matti fought hard to shed light to what they perceived to be irregularities in the 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival.
At the time, their company, Reality Entertainment, had its entry, Honor Thy Father, disqualified at the last minute from the Best Picture awards.
This time, in MMFF 2016, Dondon and Erik are competing again after Reality Entertainment’s Seklusyon secured a slot in the Magic 8.
The question begs to be asked: Are Dondon and Erik—whose festival entry is currently not in trouble—turning a blind eye to crucial issues this time around?
MMFF 2015 SCANDAL. It may be recalled that aside from the alleged anomaly in the disqualification of Honor Thy Father for the Best Picture award, “conflict of interest” was raised as a major issue in the congressional probe of the MMFF 2015 scandal.
Dondon Monteverde and Erik Matti started the ball rolling by calling out the connection between producer Atty. Joji Alonso, who had two official entries in MMFF 2015, and Dominic Du, who was an MMFF 2015 Execom member and chairman of the 2015 Sales and Playdate Monitoring Committee.
Following this, Laguna representative and Honor Thy Father cast member Dan Fernandez accused Atty. Alonso of having a “connection” or “association” with Dominic Du.
During the meetings at the House of Representatives’ Metro Manila Development (MMD) committee, Fernandez questioned at length Atty. Alonso's "connection" to Du, and implied that the lawyer-producer benefited from this.
Atty. Alonso denied benefiting from her lawyer-client relationship with Du, an MMFF 2015 Execom member, who is also the head of the Motion Picture Anti Film Piracy Council for which Alonso is the lawyer.
But an investigation of the scandal—conducted by PEP for its MMFF 2015 Special Report—revealed that, “if strictly applied, ‘conflict of interest’ tainted all key players in the scandal, including the very parties who made it an issue.”
Reality Entertainment co-owners Dondon Monteverde and Erik Matti, chief complainants in the 2015 issue against Atty. Joji Alonso and Dominic Du, turned out to themselves be business partners of MMFF 2015 Execom member Marcus Ng.