Funds issue hounding MMFF anew
MANILA, Philippines – As the annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) draws near, conflict rises between actor Leo Martinez and organizers, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), after accusations of mishandling of the festival's profits.
Leo Martinez, who serves as Director General for MMFF beneficiary Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP), claimed that the MMFF owes its beneficiaries P82 million from proceeds gathered from the festival's amusement tax.
Martinez told Rappler that records from the Commission on Audit (COA) from 2002 to 2008 showed violations by the MMFF management.
"When I got all the figures, I noticed the gross amount every year keeps going up, but our shares keep going down," said Martinez.
On October 18, Martinez sent a letter to MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino asking him to explain the violations. After receiving no immediate answer, Martinez said he gave the MMDA until December 6 to reply. The actor made his concern public after still receiving no response.
Speaking to Rappler, however, Tolentino said that Martinez had been "misinformed" regarding the computation, and that the MMFF Executive Committee has met with the actor to explain the matter.
A copy of Martinez's letter was sent to Rappler. He detailed how the MMFF had been using the amusement tax profits – supposedly meant for the beneficiaries – to fund "festival expenses" and "other intentions."
According to MMC Executive Order 86-09, "all city and municipal mayors are to exempt all theatres from the computation and remittance of amusement taxes during the 10 day (festival) period." All taxes gathered will then be handled by the MMFF festival committee as a trustee, prior to the identification of the beneficiaries.
"The MMFF has been charging expenses against the amusement tax collection, which should not be used for other intentions except for sharing beneficiaries," read the letter.
Martinez urged the MMFF management to stop their "uncaring practice of using the amusement tax proceeds to run the festival activities."
He told Rappler that all he wants is for Tolentino to reply to his letter.
"They are not following what the COA said, they should follow what the COA said, they should answer my letter. Why can't they answer my letter?" he said.
"Sagutin nila ako, sabihin nila mali ang COA." (They should answer me, and tell me COA was wrong).
In a separate letter sent to members of the FAP, Martinez summarized his claims based on COA's report on the special audit of the MMFF funds from 2002 to 2008.
Martinez noted that aside from the P82M missing from the funds, the MMFF management also lacked documents and liquidation for millions worth of cash advances, cultural projects, and transactions with broadcast company Solar Entertainment.
Remittances for the amusement tax were also reportedly delayed by 513 days, violating MMC EO 86-09, which requires remittances of taxes within 20 days after the last day of the festival.
The COA report also noted that former Chairman Bayani Fernando received from the MMFF a total of P1.6M as a "cash birthday gift" between 2003 to 2006. Martinez said that Fernando returned the whole amount after reports were revealed.
Martinez also went on to describe the MMFF's system as "the most creative kind of accounting," saying they kept 4 different sets of figures.
In a phone interview with Rappler, Tolentino said that Martinez had been raising his "rehashed story" for several years since 2002, before Tolentino's term as the MMDA Chairman.
"Apparently, he's being misinformed," said Tolentino, explaining that Martinez's computations are "bloated" because they are based on national figures, which include profit from places outside Metro Manila.
According to Tolentino, profits come only from the amusement tax from Metro Manila. He said these are all audited in open books.
"MMDA has no control over cities outside Metro Manila. So he is computing based on national computation. According to the law, because this is the Metro Manila Film Festival, you can only share [with] Metro Manila theatres."
Tolentino told Rappler that the FAP consistently receives 20% every year from the gross Metro Manila proceeds.
He said the MMFF Executive Committee had already explained the matter to Martinez several times, and that the actor "promised to shut up" after a meeting last week.
"The executive committee already explained it to him because he has been raising this since 2002, and then again today," he said. "The same explanations are being given to him, that he cannot get proceeds from the shares from Davao, and Cebu, [etc]."
Tolentino said none of the other beneficiaries are complaining "because they all received regular shares from Metro Manila theatres."
"[Martinez] is the only loose cannon saying that. Out of the entire movie industry, is there another one saying that? There is no one claiming that except him," he said.
Tolentino claims there are no anomalies or irregularities in the funds and that he has the film industry's support.
According to its website, The Metro Manila Film Festival "is an annual celebration of the Filipino talents in the movie industry. It is a recognition of the role of the film industry in providing artistic depictions of both this country's stories and history."
The 39th MMFF formally opens nationwide on December 25, and will feature 8 full-length films. An annual parade of stars takes place on December 22 and the awards night takes place on December 27.
According to Tolentino, apart from an earlier donation of P500,000, a fraction of the profits this year will go to Yolanda survivors. –Rappler.com