Last December 3, PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) reported that Wilson Tieng, owner of Solar Films, will be distributing three out of the eight official entries of MMFF 2016.
These are Sunday Beauty Queen, Oro, and Saving Sally.
This means that Tieng will be earning—if standard contracts between distributors and producers are followed—10 percent of the gross sales of all three movies, free from all related distribution expenses (checkers, transport costs, others), which are shouldered by producers.
Read: MMFF Execom's Wilson Tieng to distribute Sunday Beauty Queen, Oro, and Saving Sally
This poses a problem because Tieng is a member of the MMFF 2016 Executive Committee and also of the Sales and Playdate Monitoring Committee.
The situation raises the issue of "conflict of interest" for Tieng because, as a member of the powerful Executive Committee, he comes under MMFF rules and regulations.
Rule B2 of MMFF categorically states: "Members of the MMFF Executive Committee and its sub-committees are disqualified from joining the competition in whatever capacity."
THE GHOST OF MMFF 2015. "Conflict of interest" is exactly the same issue raised against MMFF in 2015, particularly directed at Execom member Dominic Du.
Dominic Du in 2015, like Wilson Tieng in 2016, was a member of the Execom and chairman of the Sales and Playdate Monitoring Committee.
In last year's MMFF, Erik Matti was one of the parties that raised the issue against Du. (The other was his business partner, Dondon Monteverde.)
At the time, Erik had Honor Thy Father, a John Lloyd Cruz-starrer which he directed, competing in the film festival.
In this year's MMFF, Erik is the director of Seklusyon, which is one of the eight competing movies in competition.
Last year, Erik questioned Du's ties with Atty. Joji Alonso, the producer of 2015 MMFF entries #WalangForever and Buy Now, Die Later, which would go on to win the Best Picture and 2nd Best Picture awards, respectively.
Also last year, Erik's Honor Thy Father was disqualified at the last minute from the Best Picture awards, following the discovery that it had been shown and had earned in an international film festival before being shown in MMFF. Last year's rules forbid it.
Erik said Du was distributing the films of Atty. Joji Alonso, something the producer denied.
Be that as it may, the issue went all the way to Congress.
DIRECTOR ERIK MATTI. Curious, PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) asked what Erik Matti's stand is on the issue of "conflict of interest" involving Wilson Tieng.
After a pause, Direk Erik answered: "Wilson has always been... hindi neutral ang term... has been part nung loob...
"He always finds a way to let both parties meet up and talk about things.
"He always had his distribution company ever since.
"I'm surprised na ganun karami ang idi-distribute niya."
The Reality Entertainment co-owner added: "Siguro, okay lang naman.
"Siguro, it's up to the MMFF Committee to accept.
"Pero sa side namin, naka-blank slate ang MMFF, so I think maganda naman yung takbo."
Isn't this a case of selective interpretation of a categorical rule? Why would the same rule apply to Dominic Du and not to Wilson Tieng?
Understanding that the question is valid, the director admitted that "they"—he and his partner Dondon Monteverde—are picking their battles.
And they choose not to dwell on the "conflict of interest" issue involving Wilson Tieng.
As Erik explains it: "Hindi ko pa makita in the long run kung ano ang magiging problema niyan.
"Marami akong gustong mangyari ngayong taon sa MMFF.
"Pero the fact na ganito na karami ang nagbago, okay na muna ako.
"We can't win all the battles. Isa-isa na muna.
"Ngayon, maganda yung changes, di ba?"
To date, Tieng is no longer part of the Sales and Playdate Monitoring Committee, but remains part of the Execom.
In a statement sent to PEP.ph by MMFF 2016 Execom member and spokesperson Boots Anson-Rodrigo, the MMFF exonerated Tieng, saying there was no violation of Rule B2.
“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.
“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.”
When PEP asked Erik's reaction to Tieng no longer being part of the MMFF monitoring and playdate committee, he said:
"Ah, nag-beg off siya? Kung sakali man na nag-beg off siya, okay yun.
"Maganda na he recognized na hindi siya dapat maging part nun."