Honor Roll

By Transit Contributor
Text by Joselito Acosta
Research by Laura Nerissa Parungao

Just as eulogies for the death of Philippine Cinema are being recited, a thriving subculture called “indie” emerged in 2005. By 2007, the term has become a popular byword. Indeed, the year had seen a lot of bustling energy in the Philippine independent film scene as it garnered a long list of awards.


The world premiere of Brillante Mendoza’s Foster Child at the Directors’ Fortnight section of the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival was one of the highlights of the year. Mendoza is the fourth Filipino director to be featured in the section, following film icons Mario O’ Hara (Babae sa Breakwater, 2004), Mike de Leon (Batch ’81 and Kisapmata, 1982), and Lino Brocka (Insiang, 1978 and Bona, 1989). Foster Child also won citations, including a Best Actress Award for Cherry Pie Picache at the Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival in India.

Auraeus Solito followed his success with Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros via another award-winning hit, the 2005 Cinemanila Digital Lokal Best Picture Tuli. The film earned another invite for Solito at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Utah and the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) Award from the Berlin International Film Festival.

Last but most definitely not least is Lav Diaz’ presence at the Venice International Film Festival. There, he was awarded the Special Mention Prize for his nine-
hour film Kagadana sa Banwaan ning mga Engkanto (Death in the Land of Encantos), which was part of the Orizzonti documentary section.

“Long live Philippine Cinema!” Diaz proudly heralded while accepting the award. In the indie scene perhaps nobody is as uncompromising as Diaz whose time-defying films remain largely unknown and unscreened in his own country. Notwithstanding, he does believe that there are different concepts of viewing now.

“Maybe it will take 50 more years for them [the Filipino audience] to see that all the crazy things we are doing are not really madness, but it is for them, for the culture,” he told film critic and UP Film Institute professor Tilman Baumgärtel. “We are not rushing. It will happen. Culture is growing. So if you make good cinema, you help culture to grow. If you make bad cinema, you demolish culture. It is very true. If you create good things, you reap good things. But in the meanwhile, you don’t have money.”

In his second feature film, 23-year-old Raya Martin recreates the story that had lead to the execution of brother Andres and Procopio Bonifacio. Martin, the first Filipino to be granted a scholarship at the Cinéfondation Program in Cannes, won the Best Director Award for Digital Lokal at the 2007 Cinemanila International Film Festival. The film also won the Special Mention Prize at the Marseille Film Festival, where Sherad Anthony Sanchez—another director in his early 20s—earned the First Film Award for Ang Huling Balyan ng Buhi, a project produced from the 2006 Cinema One Originals grant.

Fresh from bagging prizes such as the Best Picture Award at the 2007 Cinemalaya Film Festival and Best Ensemble Acting at this year’s Cinemanila International Film Festival, Jim Libiran’s Tribu was well received at the Pusan International Film Festival where it competed in the New Currents category, a division of the festival specifically for young filmmakers. It also got a favorable review from Variety. Critic Richard Kuipers hailed it as “utterly and tragically convincing” and “has the raw power to make its own distinct mark.”

Meanwhile, the short film circuit continues to flourish. More filmmakers are now enamored with the medium and the audience now progressively has a grasp of what the medium is. In the last quarter of 2007, the short film Rights made headlines when the Movie and Television Ratings and Classification Board (MTRCB) initially gave it an “X” rating. Rights is a collection of 30-second to two-minute advertisements showing and condemning extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of human rights violations in the country. Participating in the project were independent filmmakers 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 Sigried Barros-Sanchez. The filmmakers held a press conference condemning the rating and decided to continue with the reproduction and distribution of the movie. Finally, MTRCB amended its initial review and gave the film an “R-13” rating after the Board met with the filmmakers.


The year opened with the Bagong Agos Film Festival featuring the best and most talked about independent films from the previous year. The Festival, founded by the newly-formed Independent Filmmakers Cooperative, also formally opened IndieSine, an alternative cinema in Robinson’s Galleria that would be home to independent films on a regular basis. So far, it has provided a venue for internationally-acclaimed features such as Jeffrey Jeturian’s Kubrador, Sherad Anthony Sanchez’s Ang Huling Balyan ng Buhi, Brillante Mendoza’s Kaleldo and Manoro, Connie Macatuno’s Rome and Juliet and John Torres’s Todo Todo Teros.

In addition, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) has began to play a more active role in helping independent filmmakers. One of its major projects for the year was joining the Asian International Film Market held in Pusan International Film Festival where they find a buyer for the distribution rights of films. Foster Child has been picked by Picadillo Pictures from the UK and by Ad Vitam from France. Tirador, another Mendoza film, is set for an international release in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxemburg via Swift Distribution.

Most notably, 2007 saw the participation of some of the big names in mainstream cinema in independent productions. Topping the list is Seiko Films producer Robbie Tan’s shift from being—in the words of Juaniyo Arcellana—the “padrino of “ST” films in the 90s to an advocate of independent cinema.” Tan bankrolled Mendoza’s Foster Child and is now part of the selection and organizing committee of Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. Likewise, showbiz personalities Piolo Pascual and Diether Ocampo dipped their fingers in the indie pool. Pascual starred in Cathy Camarillo’s directorial debut Chopsuey while Ocampo joined the ensemble cast of Rahyan Carlos’ experimental drama Pi7ong Tagpo.

Indeed, indie is in.

But as everyone rides into the bandwagon, the essence of what an “indie” is supposed to be is taken for granted.
By definition, an “indie” film, short for independent, is one that is done outside of the studio system, an unfettered mode of production that does not rely with the money from the studios.

According to Tikoy Aguiluz, founder of the Independent Cinema Association of the Philippines (ICAP) and festival director of Cinemanila, the present filmmakers have to unite together and show studios, media conglomerates and policy makers that they are stronger than these forces rather than blabber and proclaim themselves the so-called “indie” and one has to be an “indie” all throughout. Indie, after all, is a Western concept and it means an alternative to mainstream Hollywood cinema. “More importantly,” stressed Aguiluz, “the movement was against the monolithic power of the Hollywood studio system.

“It should not be a fad and send the wrong signals,” he continued. “The bottomline for an indie filmmaker is to be heard and understood by the outside forces. But one has to earn his own stripes and at the end of the days it is about making a good film.”



Raymond Lee, producer and one of the co-founders of ufo Pictures observed that the current independent film scene, while getting some help from every concerned sector, is still not generating a support enough to survive. Maraming filmmakers ngayon who thrive outside the studio system, doing their own stuff the way they want to do it. Dumarami na rin ang mga nag-invest o interesado mag-invest sa indie films,” he said. “In terms of helping indie films reach a wider local audience, wala. Kanya-kanyang banat, pahirapan.”

“Kaya usually, low budget because budget is often inversely proportional to creative freedom and integrity,” he continued. “Habang lumalaki ang budget, tumataas ang expectations ng investors or financiers, tumitindi ang pressure na ma-recoup ang ginastos sa pelikula, lumalaki ang chance na mag-give in ang original vision sa so-called commercial concessions. Unti-unti sa umpisa hanggang palaki na nang palaki habang tumatagal at lumalaki rin ang gastos.”

In the end, as Lee stressed, independent cinema is of “severely limiting notions of what makes a film commercial or accessible to a mass audience.”

“May publicity, definitely. Dahil sa support ng media, lalo na sa print. May mga production and post-production grants like sa NCCA and travel grants for filmmakers invited to foreign festivals, like sa FDCP.” But yet it is still not enough to be able to sustain the kind of cinema.
“Government recognition still has some way to go,” Lee concluded.

Posted on 23 January 2008 at 8:00 am

‘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.”

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
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

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: 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

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.

Filmmakers slam review board’s X-rating for ‘Rights’ film

Media group joins condemnation of ‘censorship’

By Jeannette Andrade
Inquirer, INQUIRER.net
Last updated 07:52pm (Mla time) 09/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Two men struggle through tall grass, running away. The unseen man with the camera, trailing the other in red, prods: “Takbo, Juan. Takbo [Run, Juan. Run]!”

They run to a clearing, gunshots ring out. Juan falls on the ground. The unseen companion desperately shouts: “Huwag kayo magpaputok [Don’t shoot]!” as he runs towards his fallen comrade.

Again gunshots, and the unseen cameraman falls. His last vision, Juan’s red shirt before the screen blackens and is replaced by the glaring words: “Stop the killing of activists and journalists.”

A crooning Jose Maria Sison, featured on a skewed screen, and the message that everything depends on how people perceive things. Flashes of torture and other forms of human rights violations committed by persons in authority.

All these earned 13 independent filmmakers an X-rating from the Movie, Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for their collection dubbed, “Rights” with the short film creators insisting that they were simply presenting facts that do not deserve censorship.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) joined its voice to the filmmakers’ in condemning the MTRCB’s “move to censor” the short films , with secretary general Rowena Paraan urging “our friends in media two protest this violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression.”

Among the banned shorts, said Paraan, is “The Good News,” which is about press freedom.

Acclaimed director Carlito Siguion-Reyna on Friday expressed support for the independent film makers, calling for the amendment of the law creating the MTRCB, Presidential Decree 1986, which he claimed is a remnant of martial law.

“X is simply censorship. They are hiding behind the semantics of classification,” Siguion-Reyna said of the MTRCB.

“There are no visible acts of violence. They are all criticism of government policy. This is a form of legitimate airing of grievances. They [independent filmmakers] should be given the same space as any editorial in the newspaper,” he pointed out.

Independent film maker Sunshine Matutina said: “Our attempts to effect change should not be curtailed. The MTRCB is preventing us from expressing artistically how we feel about the situation. It is wrong that there is this body who can tell people that it [a film] is not for public viewing.”