A Statement on the Censorship of Kontra-Agos Films “A Day In the Life of Gloria” and “Mendiola”
What defines democracy isn’t simply freedom of expression; it is, in liberal terms, freedom of criticism. The people not only have the right to expose or bring into public discourse the wrongdoings of the government. It is also their democratic right to condemn it and call for or take actions against it. Any government which takes away this freedom can only be called tyrannical.
In yet another attempt to silence the voice of dissent against the current administration, the MTRCB Members Orense, De Leon and Del Prado gave an X-rating to two short films scheduled for exhibition in the Kontra-Agos film festival: “A Day in the Life of Gloria” and “Mendiola”. An X-rating automatically bans the films for public exhibition. The two films are unapologetically critical of the Arroyo Administration. A Day in the Life of Gloria depicts the lies and the human rights violations committed under the Arroyo regime. Mendiola is a short documentary critical of Arroyo’s calibrated preemptive response policy. Obviously for the MTRCB, such criticisms are not fit for public exhibition. The board members made it so obvious by even blatantly stating that they are a government agency and it is therefore their mandate to protect the incumbent government, a clear indication that the MTRCB is no longer committed to working in a democratic space. Apparently, the board members have forgotten that their mandate emanate not from their boss, but the people.
The behavior of the MTRCB is, of course, not any more surprising. A few months before it gave an X-rating to Kontra Agos films, the omnibus film “Rights” met the same fate. It was only after the filmmakers protested the decision and the incident got picked up by mainstream media when the MTRCB reversed its decision. In both instances, the MTRCB trumpeted Section 3 of Presidential Decree No. 1986 declaring that the films “undermine the faith and confidence of people in their government and/or duly constituted authorities.” In the corridors of the National Press Club, on the other hand, the mural painted by the Neo-Angono Artists Collective was bastardized when certain elements of the painting that are critical of the government were altered. The treacherous act, it was revealed later, was committed in connection to the attendance of the president in the launching of the mural.
In the case of films given an X-rating, the obvious censorship is aggravated by the fact that the fees charged by the MTRCB for review is exorbitant for independent and alternative film productions. Thus, appealing for another review, which corresponds to another payment, becomes doubly difficult if not entirely out of the question. Suffice it to say that there is a palpable air of paranoia and suppression that surrounds the government. For the MTRCB to ban the films on the grounds that they undermine the confidence of the people on duly constituted authorities is lame and ridiculous. It is a fact that for years now, independent surveys conducted by groups like Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia indicated that majority of the people do not trust the president as expressed in her negative satisfaction ratings. What is even alarming is the pronouncement of the board members of the MTRCB expressed during the deliberations of the films. Not trying to conceal its true colors as the Arroyo administration’s “censorship body”, an MTRCB board member said that that the works are not protected by freedom of speech and they are bound to uphold not just an MTRCB implementing rules and regulations but a Presidential Decree. What is clearly happening is we are being ripped of our right to criticize the Arroyo administration.
Any sensible artist or person for that matter can clearly see that the censorship is simply a symptom of the mounting mistrust of the people that the Arroyo administration handles through repressive schemes. And for as long as the Arroyo administration and its appointees in the MTRCB continues to enforce rules that curtail our right to express legitimate dissent
and prevent the people from free accessing information, we as artists and citizens will strengthen our ranks and will continue our resistance against censorship and the growing tyranny of the Arroyo administration.
Kontra-Agos Resistance Film Festival Organizers
December 8, 2007