'Oro' director, producer break silence over controversial dog killing scene

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — "Oro" director Alvin Yapan and Executive Producer Feliz Guerrero finally responded to allegations that its crew committed animal rights violations in the film's controversial dog slaughter scene.

In a Facebook statement released Monday, Yapan denied they killed a dog for the movie, adding he'd never slaughter an animal to increase a film's shock value.

"Hindi totoo na inutusan ko ang isang aktor para lang pumatay ng aso... hindi ko ilalagay ang sinumang aktor sa ganyang posisyon," he said.

[Translation: It's not true that I ordered an actor to kill a dog. I wouldn't put anyone in that position.]

The Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry, which tells the story of small-scale miners in the "Gata 4 Massacre," is in hot water over claims it featured the actual death of a dog in the film.

The graphic scene, which depicts a dog being slaughtered and eaten, has garnered negative reactions from concerned citizens, most notably animal welfare group Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) which is mulling charges against the film's crew.

However, Yapan denied these claims and said the scene was based on real witness accounts.

"Nasa tunay talagang pagsasalaysay ng testigo sa 'Gata 4 Massacre' na bumalik siya para singilin ang Patrol Kalikasan para sa kinatay nilang aso," he said.

[Translation: The scene is in the 'Gata 4 massacre witness' account'. He said he went to Patrol Kalikasan to charge them for the dog they killed. ]

He added he had no right to chastise the miners for eating dogs.

"Sino naman akong burgis na tagasentro na bigla na lang lelecturan sila na barbaro ang kanilang ginagawa ni wala nga akong naitulong para iangat ang kanilang antas ng pamumuhay para naman baboy at baka na ang kanilang kainin?" he said.

[Translation: Who am I to lecture them on being barbarians when I'm incapable of doing anything to help improve their standards of living so they can eat pork and beef?]

In an additional statement, 'Oro' Executive Producer Feliz Guerrero defended the scene, calling it a "depiction of tradition" in other areas of the Philippines.

"Bahagi ng tradisyon ng Pilipinong komunidad ang pagsasama-sama at pagkatay ng hayop para makain sa isang salo-salo. Nariyan ang baka, baboy, kambing, manok, kasama ang aso. Kung ano ang natatagpuan sa kanilang lugar, yaon ang kanilang kinakain," she said

[Translation: Filipino communities have a tradition of eating and slaughtering animals for food. There's beef, pork, goat, chicken, and also dog. Whatever's found in their place, that's what people eat.]

Guerrero explained the film was meant to mirror life in rural communities, and lamented that the controversy shifted focus away from the film's content.

"Umasa ang produksyon na manindigan ang animal welfare advocates na magsalita at turuan ang sambayanan tungkol sa tamang pag-alaga at proteksyon sa mga hayop. Ngunit sa kabilang banda, ninanais ng produksyon ang mas pagpapahalaga sa karapatang pantao."

[Translation: The film crew is hoping that animal welfare advocates continue to fight for animal care and protection. However, we also want to promote the value of human rights. ]

Dog scene to be edited out

The controversy has made its way to the MMFF Executive Committee and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). In a meeting with PAWS and "Oro" representatives on Monday, the MMFF Executive Committee ordered the removal of the slaughter scene from the film.

Likewise, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) said it would not tolerate animal cruely for the sake of films.

In a series of Twitter posts on Tuesday, the MTRCB said it would cooperate with authorities to ensure animal cruelty is not perpetrated in film productions.

In an earlier statement Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chairman Liza Diño said she had called "Oro's" representatives before the festival to ensure no animals were hurt in the movie.

Diño said the representatives assured her they hadn't killed a real dog, and had merely placed prosthetics on a goat to make it look like one.

The FDCP chairman made it clear the MMFF does not condone animal cruelty in any of its films, and would take the matter seriously.

However, in a later interview with CNN Philippines, Diño said the most the MMFF could do to address animal cruelty claims was to censor the scenes in the film. She said if other groups wanted graver sanctions, they should bring the case to court.

Scene removal not enough

Despite this, PAWS remains unsatisfied with the MMFF's actions. In an interview with other media outfits following the MMFF Executive Board's deliberation, PAWS Executive Director Anna Cabrera said editing the scene is not enough.

"You can edit it all you want but the fact remains that a dog was killed and it's not right," she said.

The group, which called attention to the alleged animal rights violation when it sent a complaint letter to Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Tim Orbos, called the MMFF's lack of action was "very disappointing."

Cabrera said they expected higher sanctions from the MMFF, especially since "Oro's" representatives had allegedly lied about killing a dog in the film.

The group is calling for the removal of the film from the MMFF, as well as the stripping of all its awards. Cabrera added PAWS is set to file a criminal complaint against the film's crew for violating animal cruelty laws.

FPJ award may be rescinded

'Oro' also stands to lose another award if allegations of dog slaughter are proven to be true.

In a statement released Monday night, Sen. Grace Poe said that 'Oro' may be stripped of its FPJ Memorial Award for Excellence award if investigations reveal animal rights were violated during its production.

Poe, who is the daughter of the late Fernando Poe Jr. said that the animal cruelty goes against the values the acting legend strived to uphold.

The senator urged the MMFF to conduct further investigations on the issue.

"Artistic license does not justify the violation of our laws," the Senator said.