Until the recent string of success of “Ma Rosa” at the 69th Cannes film awards and the Lav Diaz-directed “Ang Babaeng Humayo” at the Venice film festival, many considered the local movie industry to be in a moribund state.
Jaclyn Jose played Ma Rosa, an impoverished mother arrested by crooked cops for selling drugs in a depressed Manila neighborhood. This won Cannes’ best actress award. This was then followed by Lav Diaz winning the Golden Lion statuette at Venice. This underscores that films made by Filipinos in a local setting can compete with the best in the international arena. Jaclyn’s prized Palme d’Or is Europe’s equivalent of Hollywood’s Oscar.
Meanwhile, “Ang Babaeng Humayo” has been nominated for the Oscars, Hollywood’s Olympiad in film competition.
It is against this backdrop that Buhay Party-List Representative Lito Atienza filed House Bill 2624, proposing a tax holiday for movies made by Filipinos to spur local film production. Rep.Atienza filed the measure in August this year to encourage local producers and directors to keep cameras rolling to generate employment. The bill is actually a twin proposal that also calls for tax exemption of imported film equipment to lower the cost of production.
Atienza noted that local film production during the era of directors Manuel Conde and Bert Avellana was at 300 a year. This dropped to just 50 annually after the demise of the two movie icons despite occasional huge returns of recent Tagalog movies at the box office. These were movies revolving in romance, comedy or action film genre. Until Brillante Mendoza and Lav Diaz came on the scene and won honors in Cannes and Venice, the critically acclaimed movies didn’t do too well at the box office. But then, films like “Heneral Luna” changed all that and proved Filipinos can be drawn to theaters as long as the film’s theme and plot had resonance in the current political landscape. “Heneral” somehow struck a familiar chord in the rivalry of key Filipino figures in history like Emilio Aguinaldo and Antonio Luna with today’s internecine politics.
House Bill 2624 has all the elements close to Atienza’s heart. Himself a former performing artist with the world famous Bayanihan Dance Troupe, Lito as a three-term Manila mayor helped revive the Manila film festival started by then-Mayor Antonio Villegas, he laments that culture and sports were relegated to the background when the Commission on Higher Education was changed to the Department of Education. Sure, culture and sports are still in the DepEd sphere, but they are not given enough attention which probably explains why the country’s athletes are not doing well in Olympic competitions. Although he welcomed the silver medal finish of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz in the recent Rio Olympics, Atienza said Filipino boxers could have done better with the proper training and government aid. Athletes like Diaz, and boxer Mansueto Velasco also a silver medalist in the Atlanta Olympics, were given millions of pesos cash awards only after they won. During training under the most adverse conditions and when it’s needed the most, athletes receive only meal allowances, which are a pittance.
Case against Arroyo dismissed
In another development, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the graft charges against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband Mike Arroyo in the NBN-ZTE case for insufficient evidence. The prosecution, according to the Sandiganbayan, failed to prove the couple’s vested interest in the allegedly anomalous deal with China in a government contract that would place the entire government information network under a broadband that might be hacked by the Chinese. GMA herself canceled the deal.
Earlier, the former President was also granted bail after four years under hospital detention. The Sandiganbayan found the plunder case against her in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds weak. Mrs. Arroyo has returned to her duties as congresswoman representing her district in Pampanga.
At the outset, many saw the two cases filed against Arroyo as clearly harassment by a vengeful President Aquino who looked at her appointment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona inimical to the interest of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan in retaining Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. Corona died after his impeachment by the Senate tribunal while Arroyo was under detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center during which her own case was heard only a few times in a four-year period.