‘Gov’t tool,’ censors body accused over films X rating

By Christian V. Esguerra, Marinel Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:43:00 12/19/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The government’s censors board has provoked two militant lawmakers by giving an X rating to three films purportedly casting the Arroyo administration in a negative light.

Gabriela Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan on Tuesday filed a resolution seeking a congressional inquiry into the rating. They alleged that the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) was being used “for political repression.”

The complaint referred to the short films “Mendiola” and “A Day in the Life of Gloria Arrovo,” and “Rights,” a compilation of “public service announcements on human rights, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.”

Maza said in a statement: “The MTRCB, in rating these movies X, has proven itself to be an effective tool for the suppression of free speech and expression.”

Not fit for public viewing

According to the MTRCB Implementing Rules and Regulations, an X-rated film is “not fit for public viewing.”

National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, a founding member of the critics’ group, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, has joined the two legislators’ protest, along with filmmakers Carlitos Siguion Reyna, Anna Isabelle Matutina, Kiri Dalena, Chytz Jimenez and RJ Mabilin.

The group said they were disputing the censors’ ruling that “Rights” contained scenes that “undermine faith and confidence [in] the government and duly constituted authorities.”

It wasn’t true, either, that “Mendiola” had a “tendency to incite rebellion and sedition,” the protesters insisted.

Neither was the board’s claim, they said, that “A Day in the Life of Gloria” was “libelous and defamatory to the good name and reputation of the President of the Philippines.”

“Rights” got the X rating on Sept. 19; the two others, on Dec. 4.

Chair’s position: Black prop

MTRCB Chair Marissa Laguardia Tuesday said in a phone interview that she was standing by the decision of the review committees in both instances.

Board member Dick de Leon, head of the committee of three that reviewed “Mendiola” and “A Day in the Life,” said the two films had violated MTRCB implementing rules and regulations, thus the X rating.

RJ Mabilin’s “Gloria,” produced by Southern Tagalog Exposure, is a satire on President Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. “Mendiola,” a documentary produced by Sine Patriyotiko, exposes police brutality against those who participate in rallies.

“These two films are libelous and … too one-sided,” De Leon told the Inquirer in a phone interview yesterday. He said they were definitely “black propaganda.”

De Leon noted that “Gloria” made fun of Ms Arroyo. “In the film, humahaba ang ilong ng President (her nose kept growing),” he said.

He added that a portion in “Mendiola” could also be constituted as a violation of Presidential Decree No. 603, (Child and Youth Welfare Code). He explained, “The film featured children without the children’s consent.”

Link to Marcos regime

Maza and Ilagan linked the MTRCB decision on the three films to the political environment of the Ferdinand Marcos’ iron-fist regime, during which the board was established.

“The MTRCB operates on a decree created by a regime that was on the verge of collapse,” the two lawmakers said in a joint statement. “Its intentions were as clear then as they are now—to prevent the proliferation of political opinion and expression.”

In their resolution, Maza and Ilagan asked the House committee on public information, headed by Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, to look into the offending ratings.

Second review

Laguardia refused to further comment on the subject because, she said, “The producers could still apply for a second review.”

De Leon clarified: “If the producers volunteer to take out some of the very offensive scenes, then maybe the X rating could be lifted upon second review.”

The Philippines’ Unfree Zones

By Philippe Revelli
Le Monde Diplomatique, June, 06 2008
The government, armed forces and vested interests in the Philippines have used the excuse of counter-terrorism to murder, kidnap and pressure trade unionists and farmers’ organisations. They want a nation of docile labour and emptied land that can be sold on the world markets.

Joey Javier was the president of a farmers’ organisation Kagimungan. On 11 November 2006 he was on his way to Baggao, in the province of Cagayan in the north of the island of Luzon, for a meeting. “It had rained heavily the previous night,” remembers his widow. “Just after the bridge, the tricycle got bogged down in the mud. Just as my husband got off to push, two men appeared and shot him point blank. The army base was less than 100 metres away, but there was no attempt to catch the killers.”

Anthony Licyayo took over as head of the organisation, only to be assassinated two weeks later. A month after that, his successor Pedro Frances barely escaped a murder attempt.

On 21 January 2007 two more Kagimungan activists were shot dead. On 7 August the home of Ambot Asucena, the leader of its youth wing, was riddled with bullets. Before he died, he identified his attackers as soldiers from the 21st infantry battalion. On 9 September soldiers from the 17th infantry battalion abducted two farmers belonging to Kagimungan; when their bodies were found, they showed signs of torture.

Isabelo Adviento, Kagimungan’s current head, said: “In July 2006 the army occupied Baggao, where the hard core of our movement is located. The same month the premises of Radio Cagayan, which we had just launched, were set on fire and over the next few months there were more and more extra-judicial executions.

Soldiers rounded up people from their homes and took them to propaganda meetings that attacked us as accomplices of the guerrillas. The farmers were told to give up – give up what? They were forced to act as scouts for the army or to join the Cafgu (1) paramilitaries.”

Kagimungan is a legal organisation established by the province’s small farmers. Over the past few years it has campaigned against the sharecropping system: growers have refused to hand over half their yields to the landlords. It has also managed to force merchants to buy crops on terms less unfavourable to small producers (2).

Recently Kagimungan expressed anxieties about the expropriation of land for the introduction of genetically modified crops as part of the North Luzon Super Region economic plan. This vast project involves the construction of an ultra-modern port in the north of the island, the creation of free zones and the development of crops for export. It depends upon massive amounts of foreign capital and, according to the authorities, the Kagimungan leaders are now the final obstacle in its way. Adviento claimed this was just pointing out targets to the killers; for his own safety, he has left his village and never stays in any one place for long.

‘Excuse to conduct a dirty war’

Renato Reyes is the secretary general of Bayan, a leftwing coalition of grassroots organisations. He said that the situation in Baggao was emblematic of what is going on elsewhere in the country. “President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is using the struggle against terrorism as an excuse to conduct a dirty war against anyone who opposes her ultra-liberal policies.” Since her election in 2001, she has pledged to make the Philippines a first world country by liberalising trade and investment, reforming the tax system and privatising state property.

According to Reyes: “The regime boasts about how fast the country is growing, but it’s just a balloon inflated by borrowing and massive injections of foreign capital. To attract investors, the government is undermining labour rights, handing over vast swathes of the country to mining multinationals, opening up protected areas to oil prospectors and signing commercial agreements that drive out our farmers and replace them with monocultures for export or biofuel production.”

At present, 80% of the population live on less than $1.50 per day; the number of children under 15 who do not attend school rose from 1.8 million in 2001 to 3.1 million in 2006; 26% of those who benefited from agrarian reform (3) were forced to resell their land; and this agricultural nation is now one of the world’s leading importers of rice.

Reyes said: “Despite everything, there are a number of active workers’ organisations in the Philippines, many of which emerged from the struggle against the dictatorship or the campaign against US military bases. They oppose the government’s economic policies. To keep them quiet, the government is using a policy of terror, what it calls a counter-insurrection strategy.”

Successive Philippines governments have had to deal with movements committed to armed struggle. The New People’s Army (NPA), founded in 1969, is a Marxist guerrilla organisation (the military wing of the CPP, the Communist Party of the Philippines), which is thought to have some 8,000 combatants fighting on 62 fronts across the country. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Abu Sayyaf group are Muslim separatist groups on the southern islands of Mindanao, Sulu and Jolo (4).

Despite negotiations with the factions (apart from Abu Sayyaf), President Arroyo has favoured force. Peace talks with the NPA broke down in 2004, and in 2007 Arroyo used rumours of a possible coup as an excuse to introduce a state of emergency and declare total war on the armed groups. “There is no provision for a state of emergency in the Philippines constitution,” Reyes said. “The declaration has a theatrical effect, but it also gives the army carte blanche to continue and intensify its dirty war.”

Counter-insurgency strategies

The armed forces copied their counter-insurgency strategies – Oplan Bantay Laya I in 2001 and Oplan Bantay Laya II in 2007 – from the Phoenix Programme that the United States used during the Vietnam war. They target suspected civilian support for rebel groups. Norberto Gonzales, Arroyo’s adviser for special concerns, justified this: “We are no longer dealing with a traditional guerrilla campaign; these guerrillas have infiltrated our democratic process.”

The tactics of General Jobito Palparan, who has led the armed forces in central Luzon since August 2005, are a good example. Ignoring areas of intense guerrilla activity, he has deployed his troops around centres of economic development, notably the Global Gateway project (5), an ambitious scheme to build a road network that has provoked strong opposition from farmers driven off their land or threatened with expulsion, and from road hauliers for whom the introduction of tolls means additional expenses.

There are paramilitary groups operating alongside the army. During 2006, 83 leaders and activists from leftwing, farmers’ and human rights organisations were killed in central Luzon. Unsurprisingly, General Palparan denies having ordered these murders. He told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that these executions were “helping” the army in its battle against those inciting the people to fight the government, and were “small sacrifices” that must be made in the name of the counter-insurgent struggle (6). Targets are identified on the armed forces’ internet site: “The CPP/NPA finds good allies and propagandists in Roman Polintan, Fabian Hallig and Aurora Broquil” (7). Palparan told an Australian television journalist, Karen Percy: “I might have encouraged or inspired people to take the law into their hands” (8).

In August 2006 the government set up the Melo Commission to investigate some of the executions, but the inadequacy of its conclusions confirmed the regime’s reluctance to put an end to these excesses. It is still too early to assess the effectiveness of the Writ of Amparo (9); but the human rights organisation Karapatan claimed that on the same day the law was promulgated, the president sent a directive to the defence department instructing it to prevent either the divulgence of military secrets or any hostile interference in operations relating to national security.

‘Prosecuting civil society leaders’

These measures did not impress UN special rapporteur Philip Alston, who said on 26 November 2007: “In some parts of the country, the armed forces have followed a deliberate strategy of systematically hunting down the leaders of leftist organisations – eliminated civil society leaders, including human rights defenders, trade unionists and land reform advocates, intimidated a vast number of civil society actors, and narrowed the country’s political discourse.”

He described the military’s claim that many of the executions were the result of a purge within the guerrilla movement as “a cynical attempt to displace responsibility” and concluded that “the priorities of the criminal justice system had been distorted,” and had _”focused on prosecuting civil society leaders rather than their killers”.

Jose Cawiding, the coordinator in Baguio province of the leftwing party Bayan Muna (People First), was detained last October, accused of links with the NPA. According to Santos Mero, the provincial leader of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA): “The real objection to him is his commitment to the indigenous population and its struggle.”

Cordillera, where Baguio is located, is in central Luzon and has major deposits of gold and copper, which attracted US companies during the 19th century. The concessions granted to mining multinationals now cover 1.2m of the region’s 1.8m hectares, and the government wants to prioritise new investment.

Mero said that people living there had immediately opposed the expansion of companies that destroyed the land, polluted rivers, caused deforestation and displaced people. “The CPA is now mobilising against this destructive industry and against the construction of new dams to provide it with energy. We demand that the communities affected are compensated and the abandoned sites rehabilitated.”

The CPA has paid dearly for its defiance. In July 2006 Markus Bangit, a member of its administrative council, was shot dead at a bus stop and there was a machine-gun attack on another leader, Constancio Clanet, as he as his wife were taking their daughter to school. His wife was killed; Clanet and his daughter were both wounded and fled to Canada.

The University of the Philippines has also suffered for its long-standing opposition to the regime. In June 2006 two League of Filipino Students activists, Karen Empeño and Sherlwin Cadapan, were kidnapped by soldiers during a visit to their parents in Bulacan province. They haven’t been seen since. There have been 185 disappearances since 2001. Jonas Burgos, an activist with a farmers’ organisation and the son of a leading opponent of the dictatorship, was seized at a shopping mall in April 2007 and bundled into a vehicle identified as belonging to the army.

Sunshine Matutina, a television director, said: “I wasn’t involved in politics, but Jonas’s kidnapping shook me badly and when friends from the Independent Filmmakers’ Cooperative asked me to make a short film about it I agreed at once.” Fifteen filmmakers contributed to Rights, which was to have been shown in a major cinema in Manila in September 2007. But the day before, the censorship commission banned the screening on the grounds that the film was biased.

‘Break the unions’

Last year, on the island of Mindanao, the trade union Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May First Labour Movement) resisted redundancies announced by the food multinational Dole, which responded by calling workers into meetings where, watched over by the army, they were shown a violently anti-union film in which KMU activists were accused of complicity with the NPA. Although prominent Filipino actors appeared in the film, there were no credits and no director’s name was attached. Daisy Arago, executive director of the Centre for Trade Union and Human Rights said: “The companies and the authorities have a coordinated strategy designed to break the unions, dismantle workers’ rights and guarantee investors a docile work force.”

After almost 900 extra-judicial executions since 2001, the Arroyo regime can boast of having outdone Ferdinand Marcos,” said Jigs Clamor, secretary general of Karapatan (10). “Forty-seven journalists were murdered over the past six years, making the Philippines the second most dangerous country in the world for the profession [after Iraq].”

Philip Alston called upon Arroyo, as commander in chief of the armed forces, to stop counter-insurrectional operations targeting or causing the murders of people working for organisations within civil society. The US Senate threatened to suspend aid to the Philippines.

Arroyo’s popularity has been undermined by accusations of electoral fraud, particularly during the 2004 election, and by corruption scandals implicating her and members of her family and entourage. At her public appearances she is always accompanied by General Hermogenes Esperon, the head of the armed forces; she relies upon the army, and many active or retired soldiers have been appointed to the public services and the administration.

But life inside the military is not all roses. “Underpaid young officers are sent off to Luzon to handle dangerous and demoralising counter-offensives. They are disgusted by the wealth and privileges of their sedentary superiors in Manila, as well as by the erratic policies of a dubious civilian authority” (11). This has led to several failed attempted military takeovers.

During the most recent, in November 2007, 30 soldiers led by a former officer, Senator Antonio Trillanes, already on trial for a previous attempted coup in 2003, barricaded themselves into a luxury hotel in Manila and called for the overthrow of the government.

The authorities reacted quickly. An armoured personnel carrier rammed the doors of the hotel and the mutineers surrendered without a fight; 30 journalists were also arrested and their material confiscated. Karapatan described “the disproportionate brutality of this repression” as “typical of the regime”.

But most significant sign of the regime’s loss of credibility, even within the ruling class, was the presence alongside the rebels of a bishop, Julio Labayen, and the former vice-president of the Philippines, Teofisto Guingona.

Philippe Revelli is a journalist

(1) Citizens’ Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit. A 1991 decree allows the military to arm and train groups of civilians.
(2) The major landowners and merchants have taken advantage of the campaign against Kagimungan and attempted to undermine these achievements.
(3) The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was introduced in 1988 to redistribute agricultural land among 8.5 million landless peasants. Although controversial, it was revived in 1998.
(4) See Carmen A Abubakar, “Mindanao : a miniature history”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, September 2003.
(5) Roads will link the port of Subic Bay (a former US naval base), Clark airport and the free zones of Clark and Hacienda Luisita. Monocultural exports will be developed in tandem.
(6) Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2 June and 28 October 2005.
(7) http://www.afp.mil.ph/0/news/propagandists.php Those named are the leaders of Bayan, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, and Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (National Movement for Democracy).
(8) Foreign correspondent, ABC, 5 May 2007. Transcript at http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2007…
(9) This law, promulgated in September 2007, is based upon a principle similar to habeas corpus; it can be invoked in cases of arbitrary detention or by anyone feeling under threat.
(10) 2006 was a black year, with 209 murders. Karapatan attributes the fact that this fell to 68 between January and October 2007 to publicity and international pressure.
(11) David Camroux, “The unique Philippines”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, July 2006.

Translated by Donald Hounam

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ERRATA: I am not a television director but an editor. Also, the IFC did not ask me to make a short film. We invited independent filmmakers to contribute to the campaign and then eventually asked the help of IFC to provide the venue for the RIGHTS launch. Mr. Revelli must have misheard me since we did the interview at a noisy carinderia along Katipunan. Or it could also be because of the language barrier. :)

Isang Minutong Katotohanan

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano
Pinoy Weekly, Taon 6 Blg 29
Agosto 2, 2007

Mahigit– kumulang isang minuto. Ito lamang ang kailangang oras para paalalahanan kang mahalaga ang mga karapatang pantao – at ang pagkilos kapag sistematikong nilalabag ang mga ito sa panahon ng sinasabing di-deklaradong martial law.

Kamakailan, inilunsad ng Free Jonas Burgos Movement o FJBM ang “Rights,” inisyatiba ng iba’t ibang filmmaker na gumawa ng maiikling anunsiyo-publiko hinggil sa sitwasyong pangkarapatang pantao. Itinayo ang FJBM matapos ang pagdukot kay Jonas Burgos ng mga pinaghihinalaang militar noong Abril 28. Mga artista ang kalakhan sa mga bumubuo ng grupo – filmmaker, musikero, at potograpo – na hindi lamang desidido sa paghahanap sa kilalang desparecido, kundi sa paghahanap ng paraang itampok ang isyu ng karahasan ng estado.

“Hindi kasi masyadong pinag-uusapan ng mga tao. Hindi katulad noong martial law na deklarado simula’t sapul, ito medyo gradual ang horror (ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao) kaya mas nakakagulat,” sabi ni Sunshine Matutina, finalist sa Cinemalaya para sa pelikulang Panaginipan.

Marahil, gulat ng kaliwanagan ang hatid sa mga manonood ng mga anunsiyo-publiko. Walo ang nakalap ng grupo sa inisyal, kabilang ang kay Jon Red, tanyag na direktor ng mga pelikulang kapwa indipendiyente at mainstream.

Sa Ignorante, ginamit ni Red ang mga eksena mula sa Batas Militar, isang lumang pelikula. Angkop, dahil ang karahasang may pangalan noon ay walang pangalan ngayon, pero nananatiling bangungot sa esensiya. Katulad ng isang bangungot, ang anunsiyo ay malagim at madetalye. Kasabay ng grapikong mga pagsasadula, ipinapakita ang hindi maitatatwang mga datos ng pagpatay at pagdukot (Kung tutuusin, mababa pa ang mga bilang sa anunsiyo ni Red kumpara sa naitala ng mga grupong pangkarapatang pantao).

Samantala, nakapokus sa mga bagay na iniiwan ng mga dinukot at nawawala – sa dulo, isang batang anak – ang The Disappeared ni Matutina na nasa black-and-white.

Dalawa ang ambag na anunsiyo ng Southern Tagalog Exposure o STEx, alternatibong grupong multimedia.

Batay sa testimonya ng tortyur ng dinukot na pastor na si Berlin Guerrero ang naratibo ng Unang Araw (direksiyon at panulat ni King Catoy). Dahil dinadala ng kamera ang manonood sa punto-de-bista ng biktima, mahirap makawala. Sinadyang blurred ang mukha ng mga salaring naka-bonnet, pero maaaninag ang litrato ni Pangulong Arroyo sa dingding. Banat ng anunsiyo sa Human Security Act: maraming puwedeng mangyari sa tatlong araw na maaaring madetine nang walang kaso ang isang pinagsususpetsahang terorista sa ilalim ng bagong batas.

Samantala, sa pagbabalik-tanaw humugot ng reyalisasyon ang Where is Jonas? na nasa silent format (direksiyon at panulat ni Kiri Dalena). Lumang litrato ni Joe Burgos at mga anak na si Jonas at JL ang pinaglaruan. Sa dalawang pangungusap, ang pamana ng yumaong mamamahayag at aktibistang tumulong sa pagpapabagsak ng diktaduryang Marcos ay ikinabit sa trahedya ng kasalukuyan.

Dominado ng karakter ng nakaposturang TV announcer, sarkastiko sa umpisa at nakapangingilabot sa huli ang Good News ng digital filmmaker na si Pam Miras. Partikular na adbokasiya ng anunsiyo ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag na literal na nagwawakas sa bibig ng baril. Abangan na lamang ang tunay na pinagmumulan ng magagandang balita at limiin: “Ang totoong magandang balita ay balitang malaya.”

Sa Ikaw ni Niño Tagaro ng Ugat Lahi Artists Collective, dinadakila ang sakripisyo ng isang pinahirapang detinidong pulitikal, at sinasalungat ang kawalang pag-asa ng manonood. Sa Tanga ni Paolo Villaluna, direktor ng pelikulang Ilusyon, hinagod ang iba’t ibang eksenang pambansa mula noong dekada ’80, at hinahamon ang umano’y katangahan ng mga Pilipino.

Paliwanag naman sa enforced disappearance o terminong Ingles sa pagdukot ang Definition No. 1 ni JL Burgos.

Hindi malaking panahon at rekurso ang ginugol ng mga filmmaker sa paggawa ng “Rights.” Isang malakas na ideya, ilang oras na shooting, ilang araw na editing. Boluntaryo ang mga talento. Nagpahiram pa si Matutina ng kamera at editing machine sa mga nangailangan nito. “Ang mahalaga, masimulan ang pagmumulat sa hanay ng iba pang gumagawa ng pelikula at sa mas malawak na publiko,” aniya.

Ipinamamahagi ng FJBM ang “Rights” sa mga kakilala at ipinapalabas ito sa mga screening sa Cinekatipunan, Eksena, at Cinemalaya. Naka-upload ang ilan sa YouTube.com. At umano’y may network sa telebisyon na interesadong iisponsor ang mga anunsiyo. Marami pang filmmaker ang inaasahang sasama sa proyekto. Sa pagdiriwang ng Human Rights Month sa Disyembre, inaambisyon din ang isang pelikulang full-length.

Bukod-tangi ang mga anunsiyo-publiko na hindi lamang inilalahad ang katotohanan, kundi nanghihimok umaksiyon (“Hahayaan mo bang ikaw ang mawala bago ka magsalita?”, “Do not let their legacy disappear”). Ang magawa ito sa loob ng mahigit-kumulang isang minuto ang hamon ngayon sa pinakamahuhusay na filmmaker na nais maging makabuluhan sa panahon ng di-deklaradong martial law.

PASSION FOR REASON: Human rights film was initially rated X?

By Raul Pangalangan
Inquirer
Last updated 01:21am (Mla time) 10/05/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Joseph Estrada’s biographical documentary “Ang Mabuhay para sa Masa” was rated X last year because the part about Edsa People Power II tended to “incit[e] political rebellion,” but the nation was not indignant. The censors took umbrage at the closing line: “Nalalapit na ang bagong umaga dahil sa lakas ng puwersa ng masa at muli nang babangon.” [“A new day is dawning because of the power of the masses and they will rise again.”]

Now the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), thus emboldened, has just tried to block a human rights film, because it is “unfair and one-sided [and] undermined [the people’s] faith and confidence” in our government, and we are aghast. We have been warned: “As thou hast sown, so shall thou reap.”

Just last week, I lamented the racist outburst by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on the Senate floor, yet, even as the senator apologized, some readers wrote to defend the Filipino’s ingrained anti-Chinese bigotry. Barely one week later, we are all up in arms over a scene from a US TV show, where a lead character, talking to a doctor, said: “Okay, before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? Because I would just like to make sure they’re not from some med school in the Philippines.” (If all the US-based Filipino doctors and nurses went on strike, won’t their health system go haywire? I wonder.)

I didn’t realize we would have our dose of poetic justice so swiftly. I had assumed that retribution would come at the glacial pace of Philippine courts. But in the classic Filipino witticism of my generation, “Bullet day, they will giant us.”

I didn’t get to see the 13 independent short films depicting our human rights situation during its short run. Apparently, the MTRCB initially rated them “X.” (The gradations are, from mildest to wildest: G or GP — General patronage; PG-13 — Parental guidance for children under 13; R-13 or R-18 — Strictly for persons over the specified age; and X — Not for public viewing.) As of this writing, the MTRCB has mercifully revised its position and released the film for a wider R-13 audience.

Collectively entitled “Rights,” the film series apparently consists of clips as short as regular TV commercials, independently produced, and shows disappearances and scenes of torture. The killings are no fabrication. Government and UN fact-finders have all confirmed them, and they have warranted action, no less, from the Supreme Court.

The films, reports say, had none of the usual excuse for censorship, namely, obscenity. Remember “Kapit sa Patalim,” a socially relevant Lino Brocka film for which the censors were haled all the way to the Supreme Court during the twilight years of the Ferdinand Marcos era? The government tried to suppress it by citing nudity in the depiction of bar girls. A few years ago, in a bizarre move, the censors gave an R rating to “Schindler’s List” because, and this gets even sicker, it showed naked bodies inside the gas chambers!

Party-list Rep. Crispin Beltran hit the nail right on the head: “It’s not [for the MTRCB] to judge the [film’s] content on whether or not it undermines the public’s faith and confidence in the government. It will be up to the audience to decide that.”

Beltran has seized the heart of the doctrine allowing only the “content-neutral” regulation of speech. Government may not regulate speech on the basis of its message, but only on its overall effect that, in this case, would pose a “clear and present danger.” In other words, in our constitutional order, there can never be such a thing as a government-sanctioned truth — a politically approved official version that we are all bound to accept. “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

It is a rejection of what US Supreme Court Justice William Douglas called the “suffocating influence of orthodoxy and standardized thought.”

That is why when the MTRCB justifies its X rating by saying that “Rights” was “unfair and one-sided,” its decision was content-based, but it would scarcely give me any comfort if the MTRCB reverses itself by saying that it was fair and objective after all. Whether speech is biased or balanced is for the audience, not any government board, to decide.

The sole question before any government agency should be whether the danger posed by the speech is so imminent that it is “dangerous to leave the correction of evil counsels to time.” The classic formulation was made by Holmes: “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” I understand that the MTRCB eventually found its way and applied the clear and present danger test.

My real worry is not about government behaving badly. It is about a passive people immobilized by political correctness and unwilling to advance “freedom for the thought that we hate.”

My other concern is that we have already sent a chilling effect on young and independent film-makers, who may now shy away from politically sensitive topics. Worse, it may have scared away film producers and potential investors.

The libertarian Douglas warned us to be alert to these slow encroachments on our liberties. “As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there’s a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

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

INQUIRER.net
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,
Signed
MA. CONSOLIZA P. LAGUARDIA
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: http://www.youtube.com/isabellematutina

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 freejonasburgosmovement@yahoo.com

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

Rights Volume I

RIGHTS is a series of independently produced public service advertisements about the present human rights situation in the Philippines.

Executive Producers: FREE JONAS BURGOS MOVEMENT and SOUTHERN TAGALOG EXPOSURE

Associate Producers: ANNA ISABELLE MATUTINA and KIRI DALENA

DEFINITION #1
Writer / director / graphics: JL BURGOS
Producers: Gray Matter, Desaparecidos, Karapatan, Free Jonas Burgos Movement
TRT: 44 seconds

Description:
A play of words and their corresponding meanings, truth is unraveled when definitions are investigated.

JL BURGOS studied Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. He is a visual artist, filmmaker and freelance video editor. The younger brother of missing activist, Jonas Burgos, he serves as a spokesperson of the Free Jonas Burgos Movement and is a member of the human rights organization Desaparecidos Philippines.

WHERE IS JONAS?
Writer / director / editor: KIRI DALENA
Photo editing: RJ MABILIN
Producer: Southern Tagalog Exposure
TRT: 43 seconds

Description:
A photograph dating back to the Marcos dictatorship shows press freedom fighter, Joe Burgos, embracing his children. When deconstructed, it reveals the tragic disappearance of his activist son, Jonas Burgos.

ADELISA
Writer / director / editor: KIRI DALENA
Producer: Southern Tagalog Exposure
TRT: 1 minute, 20 seconds

Description:
Adelisa is a direct witness to the abduction and killing of both her parents, Expedito and Manuela Albarillo. In all its rawness, her anguish and anger is captured in this video.

A University of the Philippines graduate, KIRI DALENA studied 16mm cinematography and documentary at the Mowelfund Film Institute. In 2001, she co-founded the Southern Tagalog Exposure and produced the seminal “Echo of Bullets” and “Red Saga.” She initiated the alternative film space Cinekatipunan with Mag:net Galleries in 2006.

IGNORANTE (Ignorant)
Writer / director: JON RED
Cinematography: LARRY MANDA
Production design: ROY RED
Editors: MANIE MAGBANUA and LAWRENCE CORDERO
Producers: Pelipula and Filipino Pictures
TRT: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Description:
Human rights violations by the numbers. Scenes of betrayal, torture, abuse and summary execution. A pandora’s box that needs to be revealed to the viewers.

JON RED studied at the Philippine High School for the Arts, University of the Philippines and attended a film workshop at the Mowelfund Film Institute. He is the writer and director of critically-acclaimed shorts “Es”, which won Best Jury Prize at the Mondiale dela Video in Brussels Belgium, and “Trip”, Best Short Film winner of Gawad Urian in 1994. He has also directed full length works “Still Lives” and “Utang ni Tatang” before “ASTIGmatism”, which won the Silver DV Award at the 28th Hongkong International Film Festival (2004). His latest works include “Anak ng Tinapa”, “Cut”, a no-dialogue feature, “Coup B’etat”, a political satire, and “Pain Things” (2007). Together with wife Carol, he conceptualized and line-produced “Imahe Nasyon” (2006) a groundbreaking, conceptual omnibus film by 20 alternative filmmakers who were tasked to present their personal visions on national issues.

THE DISAPPEARED
Writer / director / editor: ANNA ISABELLE MATUTINA
Videography: JULES KATANYAG
Production design: RICHARD LEGASPI
Music: PAM MIRAS
Producers: Digital Cheese and Free Jonas Burgos Movement
TRT: 51 seconds

Description:
Through a montage of places, objects and people, the film depicts what is left behind after an activist is forcibly taken.

JUAN,TAKBO! (Run, Juan!)
Writer / director: ANNA ISABELLE MATUTINA
Videography: ANTONIO PAYOMO III
Cast: Richard Legaspi, Antonio Payomo III
TRT: 44 seconds

Description:
A real-time portrayal of the threat and danger involved when exposing the truth with only a camera as weapon.

ANNA ISABELLE MATUTINA is a Broadcast Communications graduate of the University of the Philippines and studied Digital Filmmaking at the Mowelfund Film Institute in 2004. She has edited for various independent film projects and produces her own short films. Her works include “Panaginipan”, “Ika-Siyam Na Palapag”, and “Puwang” which have competed in both local and international film festivals. She also co-directed “Unconventional Warfare,” a documentary on the presence of the US troops in the Philippines. She currently works as an editor for GMA Network’s documentary show, “I-Witness” and is finishing her fourth short film, “Walong Linggo.”

TANGA (Stupid)
Director / editor: PAOLO VILLALUNA
Music: “Kayod Kabayo” written by PAOLO VILLALUNA and PIKE RAMIREZ, sung by PIKE RAMIREZ
Producer: Pollen Productions
TRT: 1 minute, 19 seconds

Description:
Four administrations and two EDSA uprisings have passed after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, Filipinos are asked if they have learned their lesson.

Starting his roots in theater, PAOLO VILLALUNA acted and directed several theater productions before joining Mowelfund’s Animation workshop in 1996 and Documentary Workshop in 2000. His first documentary, “Palugid” won several local awards and competed in various international film festivals. His full length films, directed with partner Ellen Ramos, include the highly-acclaimed “Ilusyon,” which was selected in the Pusan International Film Festival 2006, and “Selda” (2007).

UNANG ARAW (Day One)
Writer / director / editor: KING CATOY
Videography: RJ MABILIN
Sound design: RJ MABILIN and KING CATOY
Production design: BONG DE LEON and AUBREY SILARDE
Cast: Mateo Singko, Vincent Silarde, Bogsi Panaligan, Bong de Leon
Voice talents: Jess Santiago, Bobby Balingit, Ed Manalo, Bong de Leon
Producer: Southern Tagalog Exposure
TRT: 1 minute, 8 seconds

Description:
The violence and depravity of those who carry out torture. Inspired by actual accounts of Berlin Guerrero, a United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) pastor who was abducted and tortured by government security forces on May 28, 2007.

KING CATOY majored in Theater Arts at the Philippine High School for the Arts. He was Chairperson of the Student Council in 1999 at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños and one of the founding members of Southern Tagalog Exposure, an independent and alternative multi-media collective based in Region IV.


LOST AND FOUND
Writer / director: SIGRID ANDREA BERNARDO
Cinematography: ALMA DELA PEÑA
Editor: ANNA ISABELLE MATUTINA
Music: JESS SANTIAGO
Cast: Lilia and Ernesto Corpuz
Producers: Gray Matter and Digital Cheese
TRT: 1 minute, 14 seconds

Description:
Objects lost are easily recovered while people critical of the government are never found.

BANGKA O EROPLANO (Boat or Airplane)
Writer / director: SIGRID ANDREA BERNARDO
Cinematography: ALMA DELA PEÑA
Editor: ANNA ISABELLE MATUTINA
Music: JESS SANTIAGO
Cast: Hershey and Herson Abarico,
Producers: Karapatan, Digital Cheese, Free Jonas Burgos Movement
TRT: 1 minute, 13 seconds

Description:
At an early age, children in the Philippines are exposed to the reality of activists becoming victims of enforced disappearances.

SIGRID ANDREA BERNARDO is a member of Dulaang UP, Tanghalang Pilipino and other prestigious theater groups. She took up advanced directing for theater at the University of the Philippines and had worked for a year as a storyteller for Adarna Books and Japan Foundation. She has directed and acted in several stage plays before producing her first short film, “Babae” which have won awards in several local and international film festivals.

GOOD NEWS
Writer / director: PAM MIRAS
Videography: JULES KATANYAG
Production design: RICHARD LEGASPI
Editor: ANNA ISABELLE MATUTINA
Cast: Kat Lopez, Jules Katanyag, Danzen Santos, Malaya Javier, Richard Legaspi, Karla Rimban
Producer: Digital Cheese
TRT: 48 seconds

Description:
A satirical look into the violence and pressures media practitioners face in their daily role as presentors of societal truths.

PAM MIRAS is a part-time teacher, writer, independent filmmaker, and full-time mom. She graduated with a film degree at the University of the Philippines in 1999. Her short films “Reyna ng Kadiliman” and “Blood Bank” have won several local awards and have been screened in various international film festivals.


HUMAN RIGHTS WORKER
Writer / director / editor: RJ MABILIN
Music: RJ MABILIN and TETA TULAY
Producer: Southern Tagalog Exposure
TRT: 1 minute, 24 seconds

Description:
Karapatan Southern Tagalog leader, Eden Marcellana, was repeatedly accused by state forces of being a member of the Communist New People’s Army. Like many other human rights defenders in the Philippines, she was murdered by suspected military men.

A student activist back in his college days at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, RJ MABILIN is a founding member of Southern Tagalog Exposure. With a background in photography, he is a self-taught videographer, director, video editor and animator. He also plays for the punk band, Republika de Lata.

DIYARYO (Newspaper)
Writer / director: MIKE DAGÑALAN
Cinematography: MA-AN ASUNCION
Editor: ANNA ISABELLE MATUTINA
Cast: Hector Macaso
Producers: Mike Dagñalan, Ma-an Asuncion, Hector Macaso
TRT: 55 seconds

Description:
In one long take and with a few words, this video reiterates the risks that journalists take to deliver the news and exhorts the readers not to take their killings for granted.

Poet, writer and independent filmmaker, MIKE DAGÑALAN, also directs for commercials and music videos. His first full-length film, “Isnats,” was based on a screenplay he wrote that won First Prize at the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. He is also one of the prime movers behind the series of multi-media happenings in Manila, called Eksena, and is lead vocalist of their band Kontraluz.

IKAW? (You?)
Director: VICTOR TAGARO
Writer: VICTOR TAGARO and JESS SANTIAGO
Producers: Free Jonas Burgos Movement, Desaparecidos, Karapatan
TRT: 48 seconds

Description:
A film that challenges the viewer to find hope in the unwavering strength and courage that martyred Filipino activists exemplified.

VICTOR TAGARO is a visual artist, documentary filmmaker, freelance videographer and video editor. He is a member of the Free Jonas Burgos Movement and the production outfit, Gray Matter.

ONE TILTED SCREEN
Writer / director / editor / videographer: JOHN TORRES
Producer: Peliculas Los Otros
TRT: 1 minute, 24 seconds

Description:
Jose Maria Sison, exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is enthralled by the beauty of a new day and breaks into song.

A graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University, independent filmmaker JOHN TORRES is a recipient of Vancouver’s Dragons and Tigers Award, Singapore’s Fipresci-Netpac Award and Cinemanila’s 2005 Ishmael Bernal Award for Young Cinema. He recently won plaudits for his latest film, “Years When I was a Child Outside.” He is also the vocalist of the hard rock band, Taggun Dios.

DUKOT (Take)
Writer / director: SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ
Cinematography: TAMARA BENITEZ
Asst. director: RAUL MORIT
Production design: SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ
Editor: RICHARD BARNETT
Color grading and music: CEDRIC HORNEDO
Line producer: RACQUELL ZABALLERO-SANCHEZ
Art department: Rene Guan, Jopher Ofracio, Peter Quioge, Glenn Ternal
Gaffer / asst. cameraman: Alfred Perez
Grips: Eric and Amay Comille
Driver: Chris Mendoza
Cast: Rey Domingo Jr., Budz Manuntag, Raul Morit, Tikboy Guan, Jopher Ofracio, Druy Quioge, Glenn Ternal, Alfred Perez, Eric Comille, Chris Mendoza, Boy Bakulaw
TRT: 56 seconds

Description:
A film that displays scenes of enforced disappearances over and over, but with a tinge of humor in the end.

KARNE (Meat)
Writer / director/ videography: SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ
Asst. directors: RENE GUAN and JOPHER OFRACIO
Production design: SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ
Editor: RICHARD BARNETT
Color grading: CEDRIC HORNEDO
Line producer: RACQUELL ZABALLERO-SANCHEZ
Art department: Rene Guan, Jopher Ofracio, Peter Quioge
Gaffer / asst. cameraman: Alfred Perez
Grips: Eric and Amay Comille
Driver: Chris Mendoza
Music: “Karne” performed by DATU’S TRIBE, written by ERIC CABRERA
TRT: 58 seconds

Description:
A music video that compares the slaughterhouse to the wholesale violence experienced by a long list of activists and defenders of human rights.

SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ worked as a writer for Rock & Rhythm in the 1990’s while studying Political Science at the University of the East. He then became a screenwriter for mainstream films for a couple of years before venturing into independent filmmaking. He studied directing under Marilou Diaz-Abaya in Ateneo and honed his craft by attending the 10th Cinema-As-Art Filmmaking Workshop at the Univeristy of the Philippines Film Center. His directorial works include full-length films “Anak ni Brocka” and “Lasponggols”. Now an award-winning music video director, he continues to write, direct, and act for various independent film projects.

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