Rated X: MTRCB bans HR films

The Philippine Star

Filmmakers are up in arms against the latest decision of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), stopping the commercial showing of independently produced short films on human rights in the country and rating them “X.”

On Sept. 18, the MTRCB reviewed the 30-second to one-minute films, which tackle unexplained killings and enforced disappearances involving activists and journalists, among others.

The following day, the board informed the Philippine Independent Filmmakers Cooperative (PIFC) that the short films were rated “X”, which means they are unfit for public viewing.

“Scenes in this film are presented unfairly, one-sided, and undermine the faith and confidence of the government and duly constituted authorities, thus, not fit for public exhibition,” explained MTRCB chairman Ma. Consoliza Laguardia, in a letter addressed to Kristine Kintana, representative of the PIFC, dated Sept. 19.

The 13 short films contain excerpts from news video footage from the era of martial law, the killing of former Sen. Ninoy Aquino, and demonstrations during the Marcos administration, up to the killings of militant leaders, and the abduction of others, including Jonas Burgos.

The 13 short films titled “RIGHTS” were supposed to be shown yesterday at the Indie Sine cinema in a mall in Ortigas Center, in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of martial law and International Day of Peace.

Although the launching of the short films pushed through Friday afternoon, their public viewing was halted due to the MTRCB ruling issued on Sept. 19.

“We were shocked by the decision of the MTRCB,” noted Sunshine Matutina, one of the independent filmmakers who contributed a public service advertisement (PSA), which forms part of the awareness campaign of the Free Jonas Burgos Movement (FJBM).

“These series (of short films) are valid sentiments of filmmakers, we should not be repressed.  These short films are reflections of what we are seeing around us, of what is happening (in the society) right now,” she also said.

The PIFC submitted “RIGHTS” for review by the MTRCB two weeks ago, since it is supposed to be launched and shown commercially in a cinema.

Jose Luis Burgos, younger brother of Jonas, an activist/agriculturist believed abducted by alleged government agents and missing since April 28, expressed disappointment over the MTRCB ruling, saying it stifles the freedom of speech and expression.

Local human rights watchdog Karapatan called the MTRCB ruling “prior restraint” as it is also a violation of people’s right to information.

Burgos lamented that though his family has sought help from the different institutions of the government, they have yet to be enlightened over the sudden disappearance of Jonas.

He pointed out that almost five months after Jonas disappeared, the CHR has yet to release its findings on the case; the PNP seems to be not even vigorously investigating the matter; and the AFP has yet to release its Provost Marshall report, which the family believes could shed light on the disappearance of the 37-year-old Jonas.

“And now the MTRCB is telling us that scenes in RIGHTS are unfair, one-sided, and undermine the faith and confidence of the people in their government and/or duly constituted authorities?” he asked.

Burgos said they would file a motion for reconsideration before the MTRCB, and hope that the board would change its mind regarding its classification of the human rights advocacy plugs.

The MTRCB gave the petitioner five days to file their appeal for a second review.

Multi-awarded filmmaker Carlitos Siguion-Reyna of the Directors Guild of the Philippines Inc. (DGPI) and Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) said the MTRCB decision against the showing of the “RIGHTS” is indicative of “an abusive law”.

“We also denounce this latest decision by the MTRCB because the Board should supposedly only classify and not censor films.”

According to the filmmaker, a PSA is “simply a personal editorial” that is no different from editorials in the newspapers.  He also said that a PSA is a legitimate medium to air grievances, which should be allowed by the government.

Julie Po, board member of the CAP, likewise criticized the MTRCB for it decision against “RIGHTS”, noting the Board could have been using the wrong reason for issuing an “X” rating for the short films-cum-advocacy plugs.

She stressed that the MTRCB should realize that a film is always one-sided because a film is a reflection of an artist’s conviction about a certain topic.

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