Wednesday, August 30, 2006

DVD Biography of Former Pres. Joseph Estrada Rated "X" by MTRCB

[Nota bene: The correspondence that follows is reproduced verbatim from copies of public domain documents provided to Philippine Commentary by Rodriguez, Casila & Associates law firm.]

The Movie & Television Review & Classification Board (MTRCB) sent two letters last week to Mr. Rey A. David regarding his company's video biography of former President Joseph Estrada. I reproduce them verbatim:
August 22, 2006

Publicasia, Inc.

Dear Mr. David:

This refers to your letter-request dated 22 August 2006, for exemption from review of "ANG MABUHAY PARA SA MASA".

Please be advised that the BOARD cannot legally exempt the aforementioned documentary. It is the opinion of the BOARD that the same does not fall under the exemption provided for under Section 7 of the P.D. No. 1986, stating that:
Section 7. Unauthorized Showing or Exhibition. - It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to exhibit or cause to be exhibited in any moviehouse, x x x or by television within the Philippines, any motion picture, television program x x x not duly authorized by the owner or his assignee and passed by the BOARD; x x x EXCEPT motion pictures, television programs or publicity materials imprinted or exhibited by the Philippine Government and/or its departments and agencies, and newsreels."
The BOARD considers "Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa" as more of a documentary than a newsreel. Under P.D. No. 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, and reiterated by the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 155282 (MTRCB v s. ABS-CBN Corporation & Loren Legarda, 2005) newsreel is defined as "straight news reporting as distinguished from news analyses, commentaries and opinions. Clearly, the aforesaid documentary is such kind of program within the MTRCB's review power.

We hope we have made clear our position on the aforesaid matter.

Very truly yours,
Above was followed on the very next day with the following incredible proclamation by MTRCB:

Public Perception Mgmt Asia, Inc.

Dear Mr. David,

This is to inform you that your television material entitled "Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa" was reviewed by the Board on August 22, 2006 and was found to be unsuitable for exhibition for the following reason:
We have previewed the film material and it is our view that the presentation of the biography of the former President up to his ouster is commendable. The scenes from his ouster in our opinion 'may undermine the faith and confidence of the people in their government and or duly constituted authority' as the law provides, it is our humble recommendation that a second review is highly recommended as soon as possible."

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

Very truly yours
Representing the producer of the DVD™ Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa, (which I just got done watching this afternoon) Atty. Rufus B. Rodriguez wrote back to the MTRCB as follows:
August 24, 2006

Chairman, MTRCB

Subject: Your two letters respectively dated August 22 and 23, 2006

Greetings: 1. Thank you for your subject letters.

2. Firtly, with respect to your letter dated August 22, 2006, the Board's definition of newsreel as "straight news reporting as distinguished from news analyses, commentaries and opinions is not in the law (P.D. 1986). In fact, in the cited case of MTRCB vs. ABS-CBN & Legarda, G.R. No. 155282, Jan. 17, 2005, the Supreme court admitted that the term {newsreels" is not defined by the statute. The Court said, "P.D. No. 1986 does not defined "newsreels".

Consequently, the Court took the ordinary or dictinary eaning of the term. The Court said, "Webster's dictionary defines newsreels as short motion piture films portraying or dealing with current events...Apparently, newsreels are straight presentation of events. They are depiction of "actualities."

It is thus obvious that the Supreme Court's definitioon is BROAD while the Board's administrative definition is NARROW. Whose definition ought to bne followed? Naturally, the Supreme Court's. Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the final word on what the law means. Besides, administrative agencies have no authority to expand or narrow down the ordinary meaning of statutory terms. Their quasi legislative authority gives them the duty to fill-in the details in the execution of the law, but not to alter the law.

The material questions are, therefore, as follows:

(a) Is the subject "Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa" a motion picture film? Answer: Yes. It is "a series of pictures projected in a screen in rapid succession, with objects shown in successive positions slightly changed so as to produces the optical effect of a continuous picture in which the objects move, whether the picture be black or white or colored, silent or with accompanying sound, on whatever medium and with whatever mechanism or equipment they are projectewd, and in whatever material they are preserved or recorded for instant projection, for the purpose of this Act, the material in which the motion picture is contained, preserved, or recorded, forms an integral part of the motion picture subject of this Act" (Section 10 (1), P.D. 1986).

(b) Is it short? Answer: Yes. It's running time is less than one (1) hour. Ordinarily, motion picture films run from one and half to two or more hours.

(c) Does it portray or deal with current events? Answer: Yes. It portrays real events before, during and after President Joseph Estrada's incumbency as President of the Republic of the Philippines in relation to the current political issue of presidential leadership problems.

(d) Is it a straight presentation of events? Answer: Yes, the events presented are historically verifiable. They are not figments of mere imagination. They actually happened.

Hence, the subject "Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa" is a newsreel under Section 7 of P.D. 1986.

3. Secondly, with respect to your letter dated August 23, 2006, the Board ruled the subject motion picture film "to be unsuitable for exhibition for the following reason:
"We have previewed the film material and it is our view that the presentation of the biography of the former President up to his ouster is commendable. The scenes from his ouster is in our opinion "may undermine the faith and confidence of the people in their government and or duly constituted authority" as the law provides, it is our humble recommendatin that a second review is highly recommended as soon as possible."

We reiterate our legal position to the effect that the subject motion picture film is a newsreel which is excepted by express provision of law from the Board's power of review.

Moreover, the Board's application of the 'dangerous tendency test' to prohibit the exhibition of the subject biographical film is a clear prior restraint against the freedom of speech under the Constitution. The Board's invocation of the test appears to be a n implied admission that the film does not present any clear and present danger against any legitimate State interest.

Finally, it must be conceded that the subject newsreel involves the expression of President Estrada's political belief in favor of the Filipino 'masa'. What principles govern the exercise or such freedom of expression under the Constitution? The Supreme Court teches that: "In the realm of religious faith, AND IN THAT OF POLITICAL BELIEF, sharp differences arise. In both fields, the tenets of one man may seem the rankest error to his neighbor. To persuade others to his own point of view, the pleader, as we know, at times resorts to exaggeration, to villification of men who have been, or are prominent in Church or State or even to false statements. But the people of this nation have ordained in the light of history that inspite of the probability of excesses and abuses, these liberties are, in the long view, ESSENTIAL to enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the citizens of democracy."
(Iglesia ni Cristo vs. CA, BRMPT and Mendez, G.R. No. 119673, July 26, 1996, en banc, citing C antwell vs. State of Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 1940).

Has the Board shown on record
any findings of facts to justify the conclusion that the subject video presentation 'may undermine the faith and confidence of the peop0le in their government and/or duly constituted authority?'

Answer: NO.

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed after due process of law that:

A. The Board officially recognize the subject film "Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa" as a short motion picture film portraying or dealing with current events per the Supreme Court's definition of "newsreels" under Section 7 of P.D. 1986 (MTRCB vs. ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp and Loren Legarda G.R. No. 155282, Jan. 17, 2005).

B. The prohibition against exhibition of the said motion picture film be set aside.

C. Just incidental reliefs are also prayed for.


Counsel for Mr. Rey A. David
and Publik Perception Mgmt. Asia, Inc.
Just yesterday, the MTRCB rejected this second appeal with the following declaration: DECISION ON SECOND REVIEW
After conducting a second review on the material "Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa", Board Members Paulino E. Cases, Jr., Fr. Nicasio D. Cruz and Orlando Ross. Olgado found the material to contain scenes which contravene Presidential Decree No. 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. Accordingly, the objectionable scenes:
1. tend to threaten the political stability of the State;
2. tend to undermine the faith and confidence of the people int he Government;
3. are libelous or defamatory to the good name of persons; and,
4. pertain to matters which are subjudice in nautre.
On his part, Board Member Edmund L. Sicam found the last three (3) minutes of the material as tending to threaten the political stability of the State; and undermining the faith of the people in the Government with the narration that states, "nalalapit na ang bagong umaga dahil sa lakas ng puwersa ng masa at muli ng babangon."

On the other hand, Board Member Mario A. Hernando found no grounds for disapproval and rated the same "G" Suitable for all Ages.

WHEREFORE, by a majority vote of four (4) to one(1), the material "Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa" is hereby DISAPPROVED FOR AIRING ON TELEVISION ("X").

SO ORDERED, August 28, 2006
(Signed) Members of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board:
Fr. Nicasio D. Cruz
Orlando Ros S. Olgado
Edmund L. Sicam
Mario A. Hernando
Paulino E. Cases, Jr. (Chairman)

The MTRCB effectively bans any television airing of the biography, including its originally scheduled broadcast on a little-known UHF channel (UNTV). Of course, we all know what this means. The video will bust the charts in popularity and is already being bootlegged and copied all over the place. Nothing like an X-rating to drive the ever-curious Pinoys ever curiouser and curiouser!

I am certainly curious about a film that has the potential to
"threaten the stability of the state"!

What dynamite there must be in a simple video that the Movie and Television Review folks deem
is capable of undermining the faith and confidence of the people in the government!

It would seem to me that what they have on their hands is actually a matter that should be of intense public and critical interest. (Not some prurient or otherwise objectionable film deserving of an X-Rating.) Instead, it ought to be rated G - Approved for all ages - as expressed by the lone dissenting vote on the the MTRCB, the movie critic, Mario Hernando.

No matter what anyone thinks of Joseph Estrada, he is literally the only democratically elected president who did not actually HAVE to cheat to get to Malacanang. This is not to say that Erap would NOT have cheatead if he had to, only that he didn't have to because he was that popular in the 1998 elections
during which he won by a landslide over Jose de Venecia, Fidel Ramos' horse in that race.

But for the last five years Erap has been under arrest, yet he has not been convicted of any crime. If the moral and constitutional rectitude of Edsa Dos were so obvious, why has it not been given a proper judicial denoument? It is pure non sequitur that the physical conditions of Erap's detention, within his own Tanay, Rizal resthouse, do not approximate those of the Man in the Iron Mask. But despite not one but two Supreme Court Decisions proclaiming his so-called people power ouster in 2001 to be legal and constitutional the former President has not been convicted of any crime. Instead, Erap has refused numerous offers from the Palace for him to go into comfortable exile to any foreign country of his choice, and has insisted on "clearing his name" of plunder charges. That Erap has NEITHER been convicted nor acquitted of those charges is failure of the Justice system under GMA because after five, long and weary years the entire country has suffered a divisive and fractious era that has led to stagnation and strife. GMA's own lethal prediction of being a divisive force in the national life, made on Rizal Day 2003, has come true with a vengeance. Meanwhile real crooks like Chavit Singson and real Derelicts to Duty like Angelo Reyes and Hilario Davide have feasted on the carcass of Erap's Presidency, along with the Palace's current tenant. Erap's biography, even as political speech by his supporters, is certainly within the realm of protected public speech and free expression.

Perhaps the definition of newsreel will be further refined by the Supreme Court, perhaps even to the detriment of Atty. Rodriguez's client! But it is a travesty of civil liberties and and diminution in our freedom of speech and expression to have the MTRCB render such an obviously partisan political decision.



Magnificent post, Dean!


Anonymous said...

The documentary can now be dowloaded from the website of erap.

Jego said...

Newsreel, shnewsreel. It doesnt matter. It was scheduled to be shown on TV and therefore under the jurisdiction of the MTRCB. But that said, this is certainly a lame-brained decision by the MTRCB. Undermining the faith and confidence of the people in the[ir] government? It's the government that's undermining the people's confidence in it, and not some TV show. :-D

Mr Bocobo is right. Nobody wouldve bothered with this documentary (UNTV?) if the MTRCB didnt ban it.

For the love of all that's holy, why do we still have a Marcos decree, PD 1968, in place? This should be repealed and replaced with a new one creating a ratings board and not a censors board.

ricelander said...

Erap must be smiling so wide. By the grace of a triple x rating, he's gonna have the biggest blockbuster of his life.
Even porno lovers would be curious.

Jon Mariano said...

It might just have the equivalent effect of that second envelope in Erap's impeachment trial...

kulas said...


I watched the show and was affected by it. I am not an ERAP fan, but was bothered by the way he was treated. And, gma's gloating, it was out of this world.

This biographical piece would open old wounds. This is probably gma's concern.

Thanks for this post.