MANILA - The organizers of the 41st Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) on Sunday explained their side on the disqualification of Erik Matti's "Honor Thy Father" from the Best Picture race.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the MMFF maintained that it was not informed by producer Reality Entertainment Production about the participation of "Honor Thy Father" in the Cinema One Originals Festival 2015.
"Unknown to MMFF, HTF was slated to have an exhibition and was actually shown at the Cinema One Film Festival held on November 8, 2015. This was only officially revealed to the MMFF through their letter dated November 5, 2015, received on November 6, 2015, only two days before the showing, not giving the MMFF enough time to deliberate on the matter."
The MMFF also said that when "Honor Thy Father" was invited to participate in the festival following the pullout of the eighth entry, "Ang Hapis at Himagsik ni Hermano Puli," from the festival, the film's producers did not mention its participation in another film festival.
"On October 22, 2015, the producer of the Film wrote the Executive Committee of MMFF that it has complied with all existing MMFF rules and regulations without mentioning its participation in another film festival. Having certified its compliance to all MMFF rules, it was officially included as an entry in the Film Festival on October 23, 2015," it said.
The MMFF said it only knew about the participation of "Honor Thy Father" when the producer sent a letter two days before its showing at the Cinema One Film Festival, "not giving the MMFF enough time to deliberate on the matter."
According to MMFF, disqualifying the film from the Best Picture category is the "lightest sanction" it imposed on the producers, given the alleged non-disclosure of its participation in another festival.
"After a thorough, lengthy, and careful deliberation, the MMFF decided to impose the lightest sanction of disqualifying HTF from the selection as festival awardee for only the Best Picture category. MMFF could have imposed stiffer sanctions to the film, such as disqualification from all the awards or total disqualification from the Festival altogether," it said.
"Lest it be forgotten, being included in the MMFF also comes with responsibilities. An official entry is expected to uphold and observe the Rules of the Festival."
News of the film's disqualification from the Best Picture race came Saturday, one day before the awards night, which will be held at Kia Theather in Quezon City on Sunday.
In a letter dated December 26, MMDA chair Emerson Carlos said the decision to disqualify the entry was because of the failure of the film's producer, Ronald "Dondon" Monteverde, to "disclose its participation to the CinemaOne Originals Festival 2015 as the opening film."
On his Facebook account on Saturday, Matti shared a statement from Monteverde, along with a photo of the letter from the MMFF executive committee and a document from CinemaOne Originals showing that the special screening of "Honor Thy Father" was "non-revenue generating and by invitation only.''
"Let me refute this allegation of non-disclosure. If you will recall, Honor Thy Father was a late addition to the MMFF 2015 lineup," Monteverde said. "It had been rejected by their selection committee when the lineup was announced in June."
(READ: 'Honor Thy Father' disqualified from MMFF Best Picture race)
Aside from the disqualification of "Honor Thy Father," MMFF has also faced a controversy involving the alleged "ticket swapping" in some cinemas.