Producers to appeal MTRCB ‘X’ rating of human rights film

The producers and filmmakers behind “Rights” a collection of short films depicting their views on the Philippines’ human rights situation called the “X” rating given to their film “deplorable” and “an act suppressing freedom of expression.” They plan to file a motion for reconsideration.

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, a government agency that screens films and TV programs, earlier gave “Rights” an “X” rating. The film was to have been shown on Friday, September 21, the 35th anniversary of the Martial Law declaration of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

The “X” rating, however, prevents the film’s exhibition in theaters as well as over television. The producers and filmmakers wanted “Rights” to be aired over local television as advertorials. It was scheduled for premiere screening at the IndieSine in Robinson’s Galleria Friday, September 21.

According to the MTRCB decision, the film was given an “X” rating because the scenes “are presented unfairly, one-sided, and undermines the faith and confidence of the government and duly constituted authorities, thus, not for public exhibition.”

“Rights” was produced by the groups Free Jonas Burgos Movement, Desaparecidos, Karapatan and the Southern Luzon Exposure.

Sunshine Matutina, one of the filmmakers in the collection, said the MTRCB is being “unfair.”

“Each of the shorts reflect the sentiments of the filmmakers, the views are valid,” Matutina said. “Pinipigilan kami to express artistically.”

Movie director Carlos Siguion Reyna, a longtime critic of the MTRCB, traces the problems stemming from the agency’s decisions to what he calls the “ambiguity” of Presidential Decree 1986, the law that created the MTRCB during the Marcos administration.

Siguion-Reyna repeated his call for a review of the presidential decree for purposes of changing the MTRCB mandate from censorship to mere classification.

The award-winning director said the short films in the collection “are personal editorials; no different from editorials in newspapers and current affairs programs on television.” Siguion Reyna said nothing in the short films were seditious and the themes covered had been reported in the newspapers and TV news.

The film was submitted for review two weeks ago but it was only on Wednesday night that the filmmakers received the MTTRCB ruling.

“There is something sinister here,” said Bonifacio Ilagan, playwright and activist. “As an artist, I protest that one agency will tell the public what is fair and one-sided.” Bonifacio pointed out “It is significant that this act happened as we commemorate the anniversary of martial law.”

When then President Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, radio and television networks and newspapers were shut down by military authorities.

From then on, mainstream Philippine media outlets could only operate under the supervision of government censors. It was only in 1977, when journalist Jose Burgos, Jr. and his wife put up the independent newspaper WE Forum, that readers had a chance to read news stories that reflected views and reported stories outside government control.

Burgos is now credited with starting the independent press movement in defiance of the Marcos regime. WE Forum and other independent publications that criticized the Marcos government despite the dangers of imprisonment, torture or death, were referred to collectively as “the mosquito press”–small independent presses that had a stinging “bite.”

Ironically, Burgos’s son Jonas was abducted three months ago and has been missing since. Jonas Burgos’s family and friends accuse military officials as having masterminded the abduction.

“I remember that my father, Jose Burgos Jr, fought for freedom of expression,” said JL Burgos, one of the producers and filmmakers.” I thought we have it now.”

Short film ‘Rights’ marked X by the MTCRB
Last updated 03:41pm (Mla time) 09/26/2007

RIGHTS is a collection of 30 second- to 2-minute advertisements showing and condemning extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of human rights violations now widespread again in the Philippines.

As a response to the call of the victims and from various sectors to defend human rights, the films were contributed by various independent filmmakers, namely: Paolo Villaluna, Kiri Dalena, King Catoy, Anna Isabelle Matutina, Pam Miras, JL Burgos, Nino Tagaro, Sigrid Bernardo, Mike Dagnalan, John Torres, Jon Red, RJ Mabilin and Sigfreid Sanchez.

But we got this letter on September 19, 2007:

Ms. Kristine M. Kintana
Representative, Phil. Independent Filmmakers Cooperative
21 Kamias Road, Quezon City

Dear Ms. Kintana,

This is to inform you that your short film entitled “RIGHTS” was reviewed by the Board on September 18, 2007 and was classified “X”. Not for Public Exhibition, for the following reasons:

“Scenes in the film are presented unfairly, one-sided and undermines the faith and confidence of the government and duly constituted authorities, thus, not for public exhibition.”

You may appeal for a second review within five (5) days from receipt of this notice.

Very truly yours,
Chairman, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board

The MTRCB’s X rating on RIGHTS – a series of public service
advertisements on human rights – is a form of violation of freedom of
expression, validating the filmmakers’ opinion on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The X rating on RIGHTS is not only an X mark for artist to express views and sentiments freely. Sadly, the MTRCB’s action is an X mark for the thousands of victims of human rights violations that cry for justice.

Despite the censorship, we, from The Southern Tagalog Exposure and the Free Jonas Burgos Movement will continue to reproduce and distribute copies of RIGHTS and will hold a series of public screenings for the benefit of the people’s right to know.

We pushed through the event entitled SHOOTING DISQUIET AND RAGE: Transgression and Transformation in Philippine Cinema
after the First Quarter Storm on September 21, 2007, Indie Sine, Cinema 3, where RIGHTS was originally set for launching.

We have also protested the censorship of the MTRCB in a press conference. This repression of freedom of expression and worsening human rights situation only gives us more reason to produce more films and actively participate in the struggle for justice and peace.

Watch the complete “RIGHTS” public service advertisement at:

If you want your name and organization to be counted as signatories of the unity/protest statement against the said decision, e-mail us at

Anna Isabelle Matutina
Coordinator/Filmmaker, RIGHTS Filmmakers initiative
Victor Tagaro, Overall Coordinator/Filmmaker
Free Jonas Burgos Movement

KONTRA-AGOS: A Resistance Film Festival

Robinson’s Galleria, IndieSine
Quezon City, The Philppines
December 5-11, 2007

The first question that arises when you call for support to a resistance movement is, of course, “what are you resisting against and why?” In the case of liberation movements, the simple and logical answer would be the need for emancipation from oppression, whether it is economic, political or cultural. The same case can be said of cinema. After all, as a film critic said, cinema is (both) a receptacle and symptom of a nation’s transformation. Cinema is a symptom of the state nation not only in the respect that it is a battleground of national representations. As a productive and social enterprise, it is also regulated by the same economic, political and other forces that govern a society. The same globalized economy that allows the avalanche of surplus goods from first world to third world countries, for instance, is the same force behind the proliferation of images and narratives manufactured by Hollywood. Similarly, domination of a certain stream of cinema effectively marginalizes and silences other facts, ideas and artistic sensibilities the way a certain economic order only serves the interests of a few. The government which allows the murder of activists and journalists can very well be the same institution to influence the decision of film censors. As such, the need for resistance becomes critical.

Literally meaning “against the stream/current,” Kontra Agos, thus operates within the context that the visual and the imaginary is recognized as a site of struggle. It recognizes that the dominant stream of fantasy production and representation in cinema manipulates the people’s desire, imagination, expectation and appreciation, to suit certain hegemonic and oppressive agenda. As in other similar and relative projects, Kontra Agos seeks to validate that the apparatus of cinema can be mobilized as a tool for social transformation.

The festival celebrates independently produced films that resist and subvert popular cinematic and political conventions. Featured in the festival are mainly short and documentary films, the flagship format of independent and alternative cinema in the Philippines. The films represent a wide spectrum of cinematic creations from emerging and recognized filmmakers. Veteran filmmakers like Clodualdo del Mundo will be screening their work alternately with those from a new generation of cinema artists like 14-year old Mikhail Red.

The festival also decentralizes the panorama of local cinema away from the capital as it hosts the screening of works from Visayas and Mindanao. An important selection of the festival is an anthology of short films from Mindanao organized for exhibition by moro filmmaker Teng Mangansakan. These stories about the Land of Promise as told by its children seek to subvert the otherwise distorted and sometimes demonized images of the south and its people. This homegrown collection and other films about Mindanao such as Walai (Adjani Arumpac) and Unconventional Warfare (Herbert Docena and Anna Isabelle Matutina), serve as an alternate route into the heart of the war-torn island.

Subversion is the most striking feature of the festival. Noriel Jarito presents in Bingo a story that his camera was not suppose to capture: a bingo game being played inside the church with no less than the priests officiating it. Films like Red Saga (Kiri Dalena), meanwhile gives as a glimpse of the national democratic armed struggle being waged in the countryside. Other films, on the other hand, subvert cinematic and storytelling conventions. In Hilo, subtle movements replace the almost theatrical staging of actions and emotions normally used to tell stories in the big screen. Formal poetic language and experimental designs and methods in cinema meanwhile are deftly used in Divine Wind (Sari Dalena), Threshold (Mikhail Red), Simula (Ruelo Lozendo) and Voice, Tilted Screens (John Torres), among others.

The festival also places a special emphasis on promoting the importance and protection of human rights, here in the Philippines or elsewhere. The collection of public service announcements entitled Rights will premiere its second volume. As it can be remembered, the first volume of Rights was initially given an X-rating by the MTRCB. Taken as a whole, it is a strong statement by the filmmaking community here in the Philippines against the widespread violation of human rights and the culture of impunity that perpetuates it. Documentary films such as Sa Ngalan ng Tubo, Pushing the Parameters, were also selected to present facts and accounts about the multifarious human rights violations happening in the country.

A festival of alternative and independent cinema is not new in the Philippines. Pelikula at Lipunan, Cineveritas, eKsperimento, and .mov film festivals easily come to mind. By tradition, these festivals always invoke a critical stance. Kontra Agos is an affirmation and intensification of this position. By calling itself a resistance film festival, it locates its position in the site of struggle. It aims to be a venue for the convergence of a range of films that are inclined to be thematically and structurally marginalized but are nevertheless united and daring to resist.



Adjani Arumpac: WALAI (60 mins/documentary2007)
Waise Azimi: STANDING UP (155 mins/documentary/2007)
Teng Mangansakan: THE JIHADIST (75 mins/documentary/2007)


Elvert de la Cruz Bañares: ANG BAYAN KONG PAYAPA (5 mins/2007/experimental)
Jeck Cogama: PUTOT (20 mins/narrative/2006)
Gabriela Krista Lluch Dalena: RED SAGA (15 mins/experimental/2004)
Sari Raissa Dalena-Sicat: DIVINE WIND (4 mins/experimental/2001)
Apol Dating and Michael Cardoz: MEDALAWNA (15 mins/documentary/2007)
Noriel Jarito: BINGO (18 mins/documentary/2007)
Kodao Productions: PUSHING THE PARAMETERS:LAWYERING FOR THE PEOPLE (27 mins/documentary/2007)
Ruelo Lozendo: SIMULA (10 mins/experimental/2006)
RJ Mabilin: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF GLORIA ARROVO (1 min/animation/2005)
Herbert Docena and Anna Isabelle Matutina: UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE (30 mins/documentary/2006)
Nick Olanka: LUNES NG HAPIS (20 mins/narrative/2006)
Mikhail Red: THE THRESHOLD (16 mins/experimental/2007)
Sine Patriyotiko: MENDIOLA (31 mins/documentary/2006)
Mariami Tanangco: BINYAG (20 mins/narrative/2002)
Tudla Productions: SA NGALAN NG TUBO (37 mins/documentary/2005)

MINDANAO SHORTS (Curated by Teng Mangansakan)
Sheron Dayoc: DREAMS (narrative/2007)
Moises Charles Hollite: GEORGE’S TOWN (documentary/2007)
Al Jacinto: SULU (documentary/2007)
Loren Hallilah I. Lao: TRANQUIL TIMES (documentary/2007)
Mona Labado: STEP FOR MY DREAM (narrative/2007)
McRobert Nacario: BINITON (narrative/2007)
Eduardo C. Vazquez, JR: ME’GUYAYA (documentary/2007)

WAYS AND MEANS SUB-PROGRAM (Curated by Waise Azimi)
JP Carpio: HILO (90 mins/narrative/2007)
Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr: EheM!Plo (50 mins/documentary/2007)
Emman Dela Cruz: THE SINGH FAMILY HOME VIDEOS (40 mins/documentary/2007)

8 December, 5-7 PM

6-9 December

is an Initiative of ST Exposure and Digital Cheese
in cooperation with UP Sining at Lipunan, Sine Tres Marias and
the Independent Filmmakers Cooperative.