4 Ways the MMDA is Wrong Not to Allow the Showing of a Star Wars Movie During Christmas Nationwide in the Philippines

Elpidio V. Peria
30 December 2015



Christmas is supposed to be a period where one is supposed to be generous and kind to each other but to  Star Wars movie fans, it seems the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has wronged them in many ways, since, aside from an IMAX movie house, there seems to be no place to watch the latest iteration of that fabled Hollywood movie, anywhere in the Philippines, be it in Metro Manila, Iloilo City or General Santos City, because as the host organization of the Metropolitan Manila Film Festival, the MMDA, has spread the practice or has it become a norm already, of showing only Filipino movies from December 25 onwards till the first week of January, not only in Metro Manila, but in all key cities of the Philippines nationwide.

While there seems to be nothing wrong with patronizing Filipino movies at Christmastime, depriving Filipino fans of Star Wars of their right to watch this movie in cineplexes and cinemahouses at Christmastime is something that is not generous and kind of the MMDA, that raises the issue of whether the MMDA is acting within its legal mandate to decide what kind of movies a Filipino moviegoer wants to see at Christmastime.

Of course, the ordinary Filipino couldn’t be bothered to ask why this situation is like this, but a check even with the website of the MMDA and a cursory review of the law which gives the MMDA power to regulate matters within its reach yields the conclusion that the MMDA is seriously and legally, wrong not to allow the showing of the latest Star Wars movie in the entire Philippines at Christmastime :

1. The MMDA has no authority to regulate movies at all based on its charter, RA 7924.

Republic Act 7924, the law which created the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) back in 1995, constituted the cities of Caloocan, Manila, Mandaluyong, Pasay, Quezon and then municipalities of Las Pinas, Makati, Malabon, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Paranaque, Pasig, Pateros, San Juan, Tagig and Valenzuela into a special development and administrative region the affairs thereof are administered by a public corporation which was the MMDA.

As stated in the said law, the MMDA is tasked to perform planning, monitoring and coordinative functions, and in the process exercise regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of metro-wide services within Metro Manila without diminution of the autonomy of the local government units concerning purely local matters.

So, what has this statement of regulatory power got anything to do with dictating what movies can or cannot be shown, especially at Christmastime?

Actually nothing, since movies are not part of the metro-wide services the MMDA should bother itself with, and the only things the MMDA should concern itself with, as stated in sec. 3 of the law, which are the scope of services the MMDA should deal with, are the following : development planning, transport and traffic management, solid waste disposal and management, flood control and sewerage management, urban renewal, zoning and land use planning, health and sanitation, urban protection and pollution control and public safety.

No wonder the quality of life in the big city, Metro Manila, has become shitty, forgive the words.

If only the MMDA takes its attention off this movie festival, which is a remnant of the Marcos dictator’s Martial-law era tactics of mass mind control and devotes its every second of attention span to dealing with all these critical services, then perhaps life in the big city would become somewhat livable. Or perhaps engaging in movie festivals is actually part of MMDA’s strategy of fostering escapism in all those who live a a miserable existence in Metro Manila, what with monstrous traffic, pollution, poor basic services from solid waste management to basic utilities a normal fact of daily life.

2. The MMDA’s reach, assuming it has authority, only reaches within the confines of Metro Manila

The law creating the MMDA is clear that the authority or regulatory power of the MMDA is only confined to the cities and municipalities constituting Metro Manila and nowhere else. Assuming we allow the MMDA the authority to dabble in movie festivals, the MMDA has no legal authority to dictate what movies can or cannot be shown in areas outside of Metro Manila. It is distressing for those who don’t want to watch local movies be coerced into watching Filipino movies, especially at Christmastime.

3. The Presidential Proclamations during the Martial Law period do not give legal basis to spread the practice of spreading the reach of the Metropolitan Film Festival nationwide

If only the MMDA has spelled out in its website already what the various Presidential Proclamations it has cited as legal justification for hosting the Metropolitan Film Festival, it will become readily apparent that it has no legal authority to be spreading the practices of the movie festival beyond what is Metro Manila. The details of these Proclamations are:

a) Proclamation No. 1459, signed by then the dictator President Ferdinand E. Marcos on 9 July 1975, declared September 10-21 1975 as the Metropolitan Film Festival or MFF;
b) Proclamation No. 1485, signed by the same dictator President on 25 August 1975 rescheduled the MFF to September 2-30, 1975;
c) Proclamation No. 1533, signed on 26 February 1976 further rescheduled the MFF on September 10-21, 1976;
d) Proclamation No. 1533-a, signed on 11 March 1976 rescheduled the MFF from December 24, 1976 to Jan. 2, 1977
e) Proclamation No. 1647, signed on 6 June 1977 reconstituted the Executive Committee.

All these regulations cited by the MMDA itself in its website as legal justification for hosting the Metro Manila Film Festival do not contain anything which extends the reach of the film festival nationwide. In fact, the earliest of these Proclamations, the one numbered 1459, mentioned that the Festival will be held only in the Greater Metro Manila area. Remember, this was 1975, just four years straight out of the declaration of Martial Law in 1971, so there is still no concept of the Metropolitan Manila area that was the basis for the political subdivision that will be administered later by the MMDA under RA 7924.

4. The legal status of the Metropolitan Manila Film Festival is actually in doubt, even Sen. Bong Revilla acknowledged this when he filed a Senate bill on this back in 2008

Sen. Bong Revilla, Jr. back in 2008, filed Senate Bill No. 2218 which transferred the organization, operation and management of the Metro Manila Film Festival from the MMDA to the Film Development Council of the Philippines. In the Explanatory Note for the said bill, the good Senator said :

The Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) is an annual event that showcases quality locally-produced films. The festival is presently under the management and administration by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). Legal basis of which is now being contested.

No one can say it better than Sen. Bong, he knows whereof he speaks, at least on this score, as he is first and foremost a movie star, who happened to get elected as a Senator of the Republic.

Now, to end this piece, it is now up to law students, law advocacy organizations, ardent movie fans, even movie distributors to follow up on this rapid review of the legal basis of MMDA’s authority, to take the next legal steps they may wish to take to remedy their plight. In fact, for those whose idea of Christmas fun is seriously impaired because they were not able to see movies they want to see, like Star Wars, the MMDA is actually legally liable for moral damages to compensate these moviegoers because of its actions without any clear legal authority, so that such impaired movie fan may be given monetary compensation via the legal suit so they can find other forms of entertainment to replace their misery.

Belated Merry Christmas and Advanced Happy New Year to everyone!


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