MANILA -- (UPDATED) Following days of intense controversy, the executive committee of this year's Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) have stripped "Oro" of one of its awards while they conduct their investigation as to whether a dog has been slaughtered for use in the Alvin Yapan-directed drama.
The committee, which included Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chairperson Liza Dino, said that they had rescinded the film's Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award for Excellence after a meeting with Senator Grace Poe, the daughter of the late action star whom the award was named after.
The decision came a day after the senator urged the committee to investigate whether the film was guilty of animal cruelty. Poe stressed that artistic license "does not justify the violation of our laws."
"If in fact that were the case, I condemn such act and would move for the invalidation of the FPJ award given to the film. ...Though I am not part of the jury that decided on the award, it is my responsibility to uphold the values of FPJ. He would never condone an act of animal cruelty."
"Aside from the possible criminal liability, if indeed proved, the MMFF should also consider applicable administrative sanctions against the producers and/or film makers for any misrepresentation before the MMFF selection committee on this matter which in itself may already justify the movie being stripped of any and all awards it received among other sanctions," Poe said in a statement.
The controversy surrounding the film erupted early this week after animal welfare group Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) penned a complaint to Tim Orbos, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chief and chairman of the MMFF, over a scene where an alleged dog was shown being gutted as it was being prepared to be cooked.
The group, which pointed out that the law prohibits the use of animals killed for the purpose of film production, has since called for "Oro" to be pulled out from the film fest and all its awards, including a Best Actress nod for lead star Irma Adlawan, revoked.
Alvin Yapan, the director of "Oro," has said that he deemed it fit to use a real animal as it "was within the bounds of culture in that area where dogs are eaten as food." He also stressed that no one from his production team, including the film's cast, participated in the slaughter.
"Hindi ko inimbento ang metapora ng aso dito para lang pumatay ng aso sa loob ng isang pelikula para lang pag-usapan. Nasa tunay talagang pagsasalaysay ng testigo sa Gata 4 Massacre na bumalik siya para singilin ang Patrol Kalikasan para sa kinatay nilang aso. Dahil nga kumakain ng aso ang patrol kalikasan, kasi nga tradisyon ang pagpulutan ng aso sa inuman sa ilang probinsiya sa bansa," Yapan explained.
Reacting to the decision of the MMFF executive committee, the producer of "Oro," Shandii Bacolod, said: "Wala itong problema sa amin. Even before today, a representative from FPJ spoke to my EP last night. My EP said: Gagawin po naman ang kailangan huwag lang mabahiran ng masama ang pangalan ni FPJ."
"Narinig niyo na ang panig ng MMFF, ng PAWS, at ng ORO. Nirerespeto namin ang lahat ng panig. At patuloy namin rerespetuhin ang MMFF. This so-called 'trial by publicity' should stop. If PAWS wants to take a legal action, we will respect it. But this is beyond the MMFF body, this matter should be brought up in court."