DOT: 'No partnership' with rumored Napoles-linked 7107
MANILA, Philippines – Less than a month before the 7107 International Music Festival takes place, the Department of Tourism (DOT) clarified it is neither a sponsor nor a partner of the controversial event.
The DOT's clarification coincides with reports the huge event is being funded with money from the Napoles family. The Napoleses have gained notoriety because of their links to the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam allegedly perpetuated by suspected mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
While the DOT acknowledges 7107 will help tourism in the Philippines, it said it will ask festival organizers to remove the DOT logo in its promotional materials because it is "misplaced." It made no mention of Napoles.
The official DOT seal, as well as the agency's "It's more Fun in the Philippines" logo, is on the festival's promotional ads online and on billboards, including one along C-5.
7107, named after the country's number of islands, is looking to bring in some of the music world's biggest stars, including Red Hot Chili Peppers, DJ Kaskade, Empire of the Sun, and Kendrick Lamar, and will feature 43 local artists.
In its press release, 7107 International Music Festival said it aims to promote the Philippines' "islands, its talent, its culture and its music throughout the world." It also said it was "thrilled" that DOT had expressed its "heartfelt support" for the festival, which organizers said, "gave us the confidence to promote globally."
The press statement also quoted Domingo Ramon Enerio III, DOT chief operating officer, as saying, "by having this international music festival experience that the Filipino people can own and be proud of, the Philippines will affirm its status as a music and entertainment capital in the region."
But in text messages to Rappler, Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez clarified there is "no partnership" between DOT and 7107, adding that DOT has "no direct business dealing with them, other than that we acknowledge 7107 to be a help to tourism."
Link to Napoles?
Jimenez's statement comes amid talk the festival is partly funded by James Christopher Napoles, the son of Janet Lim-Napoles, who faces plunder raps before the Office of the Ombudsman and is being held, on the basis of serious illegal detention charges, in Fort Sto Domingo in Sta Rosa, Laguna.
The festival is being linked to Napoles because of the relationship of James Napoles to at least one of the festival's organizers – James is known to be a friend and former business partner of Jon Herrera, one of the 7107 organizers. He and his model-wife Patty Grandidge are listed as incorporators of 7107 Marketing International Inc, and are the company's largest stockholders, official documents show.
The younger Napoles and Herrera had done business together in the past. The two, along with Grandidge, are behind Socal Holdings Inc, which was incorporated in July 2013, the same month news of the scam first broke.
In their affidavits, former Napoles employees turned whistleblowers detailed the deep participation of James and Jo Christine Napoles in their mother's business, from helping forge signatures of mayors to taking care of finances. Whisteblowers have also said the scam was the family's main source of income.
Festival organizers have vehemently denied the rumors. In a press conference last week, festival executive producer Conchitina Herrera, sister of Jon, said the rumors are "very serious allegations."
“As much as people would want to assume that, it’s absolutely not true,” she was quoted as saying.
Styles Entertainment, founded by Jon Herrera, also tweeted from its official account: "7107 is aligned with DOT and Haiyan relief efforts. It saddens us that rumors and competition had to stoop this low," doing little to erase misconceptions of a partnership between DOT and the festival organizers.
But Jimenez denied any sponsorship of the event and said he has not even met in person with the organizers. "DOT knows of the event. We agreed for organizers to present it as a touristic event. We did not realize the DOT logo makes us look like a sponsor. We will ask them to use only the FUN logo from now on," Jimenez said, referring to its campaign logo.
"The use of the DOT seal is misplaced and we will ask them to remove it from future material," he added. Jimenez made no mention of the Napoles links.
The appearance of the DOT logo has created confusion among netizens and Filipinos who interpreted use of the seal as government sponsorship of the festival. A comment on a blog questioning the practices of 7107 captures the confusion.
"Doesn’t it strike you that there is a Department of Tourism logo stamped onto the poster? If anything, those guys need transparency of funding. So let’s say the Napoleses DID finance 7107, wouldn’t the Department of Tourism smell that from a mile away?" user Carlo asked.
Aside from the "misplaced" DOT logo, several blogs have popped up as netizens expressed their frustration with organizers – mainly about what they call a disappointing lineup.
7107 organizers released their final line-up about a month before the festival, but many said they felt duped because the list of artists did not live up to the hype.
Twitter user @karentehani replied to 7107's announced final line-up with, "All that hype for this?"
The festival's marketing tactics were also questioned.
Another Twitter user, @apaagbayani acknowledged the lineup was good but tweeted he "can't respect [the] festival for [using] bait-and-switch."
One blog complained festival organizers "pulled what is basically a bait and switch by posting lyrics of artists rumored to perform such as Ellie Goulding, Skrillex, Jay Z, Kanye, Drake, etc. but then only announce Kendrick Lamar and there’s no mention of the '20 international artists' they have invited."
Blogger Niko Batallones, who campaigned for an earlier release of 7107's final lineup, chronicled how he was blocked by the 7107 Twitter account and then later unblocked. Producer Conchitina Herrera also deleted her tweets to Batallones.
Hot on social media
In the past weeks, Herrera was involved in heated Twitter exchanges with netizens criticizing the festival. Herrera has since made her account private.
A blog by Renee Fopalan titled "How you let 7107 let you down" has also made the rounds on Twitter.
She writes, "In the end, I hope we all see this as a learning experience. We should be aware about what we are going to buy, and not be swayed by photoshopped and filtered promises. Concert producers should also learn that you absolutely get what you give. If they give the minimum, that’s the same reaction they’ll get from the people. 'Underwhelmed' is the word going around Twitter for now. Potential concertgoers will shy away because of the lackluster lineup. The organizers would have to offer the early bird prices till kingdom come."
Not all are disappointed. Eager fans on Twitter could barely hold their excitement, praising organizers for a "great" and "insane" lineup. Even celebrities like Maxene Magalona and Rhian Ramos have expressed their enthusiasm for the festival.
At the press conference, Conchitina Herrera shrugged off the criticism, saying "I can’t control what they believe and how they will react. What I can control is how forward we [organizers] are in addressing matters like that.”
DJ Rico Robles, who has publicly debated whether or not to go to the festival, also put in his two cents: For people posting abt #7107: If ur going, great. if nt, just respect it. #walangbasaganngtrip ur not forced to buy naman right?" – Rappler.com