Let me call it now.
With 12 members of the staff terminated in the first week of her leadership, Liza Diño has put the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) under a version of Martial Law.
And because Martial Law is about silencing critics, too, I hear that the search is on for who exactly my sources are. This, instead of Diño actually replying to these allegations — I would gladly be disproved after all. But what I’m looking at are not just 12 employees given pink slips by Diño. I’m also looking at five other staff members who have tendered resignations given how Diño’s running the FDCP .
And lest you think we’re talking about consultants with huge paycheques ala Joel Rocamora’s NAPC, what I’m seeing is a list that includes drivers and cinematheque projectionists. I’m looking at staff of the National Film Archive of the Philippines (NFAP) and the Cinematheque.
I know for a fact that FDCP never got a plantilla, and it was something the previous chairperson Briccio Santos had worked at getting from the PNoy government. He had worried about the employees of FDCP because they had years of service to the institution, but couldn’t be given security of tenure.
When Santos was unceremoniously booted out by this Diño appointment, despite the fact that Diño has no credentials for this position, and the appointment was based solely on her connections with President Duterte, I knew FDCP workers were in danger.
I had hoped that at least given the President’s directive and campaign promise to end endo, that Diño would be forced to regularize FDCP employees — and that would be great.
But alas, she has instead removed contractual employees for no reason other than she can. Less than month as chairperson, Diño would be hard put to even prove that any of these employees she fired are incompetent, or lack the credentials to keep their jobs. Without the experience to even make her credible as FDCP Chair, it’s a surprise that she’s even firing people who have served as cultural workers far longer than she has, and who would’ve been trained by Santos in actually continuing the work of the past six years.
In her first speech at the FDCP, Diño said:
“The film industry should have proper recognition by the Department of Labor and Employment,” Diño insists. “Given the resurgence of Philippine cinema in the past years, it is important that there be an establishment of labor standards for film industry workers, with regards to work conditions, compensation, benefits, and labor relations.”
And then she went on to fire the film industry workers directly working under her at the FDCP.
It gets worse. Looking at her badly-written speech filled with motherhood statements (which I shall look into some other time), there is no sense at all that she even has a sense of what “film development” is, what the FDCP is required by law to do, and how important the archives are.
Here I shift to the grapevine, because it explains in more ways than one how tragic this appointment is for culture in general, and for Philippine film in particular.
(1) According to a source, the reason Diño even thought of FDCP was because when she was still part of Njel de Mesa’s highly exclusive, absolutely arguable, and non-representative National Arts Development Summit, as part of the film sector, they had tried to talk to Santos at FDCP about a film summit to unite the industry, and the conclusion was: “Ang hirap niya <ni Santos> kausap.”
The next thing my source knew, Diño was already replacing Santos.
Now, had Diño and her consultants and supporters looked at the mandate of FDCP at all, they would find that this office is not responsible for “uniting” the industry. The word “development” in fact should’ve told them that unity is the least of its problems, because real film development is not about togetherness or friendship. It’s about difference and critical discourse, it’s about someone who knows film history, has a vision for film development, a real sense of the value of the archives, and who can therefore go beyond patronage, friendships, loyalties. Diño cannot even begin to pretend she can do any of these.
(2) Another source tells me that Diño wants to bring in her friends so they can take on the posts of the people she has terminated. Now you might think this is normal because cabinet secretaries are allowed to choose their own people. But the post of Diño is not a cabinet secretary position. It is chairperson of FDCP, which is a cultural institution, run by cultural workers, regardless of who the leader is. The work in the archives and in much of FDCP is specialized work that is not easy to replace. To even bring in a new set of people out of friendship, is to waste public funds on training new people who, like Diño, might not even have credentials.
(3) Speaking of which, rumours are swirling about how someone appointed, or about to be appointed, by Diño does not even know who Hilda Koronel is. Imagine how much public money will be wasted just training that person.
(4) My favorite from the grapevine so far: Diño wants to archive Filipino films.
Which prompts you to ask: you mean the films of Lamberto Avellana, Gerardo de Leon, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Eddie Romero, Manuel Conde — National Artists all?
You mean the films of Celso Ad Castillo, Maning Borlaza, Elwood Perez?
Of course not. According to my source, Diño wants to spend public funds on archiving the films of … Vic Sotto.
Yes, si Bossing. Because Aiza Seguerra is in his films.
Tama naman. Kapantay lang naman talaga ng “Pagdating sa Dulo” at “Genghis Khan” ang “Wake Up Little Susie” at “Enteng Kabisote.”