ROCES: A Tradition in Philippine Print Media

Gloria names new censors chief
By Leah Salterio, Gerald Lacurta and Donna Cueto
Inquirer News Service

IN THE storm swirling around her decision to ban "Live Show," President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday appointed educator Alejandro Roces as new chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board to replace Nick Tiongson, who resigned Wednesday to protest the "repression of freedom of expression."

Also named as the 12 other members of the MTRCB were a group of mostly liberal figures from the world of entertainment and the arts: Behn Cervantes, Jaime Fabregas, June Keithley-Castro, Fr. Nicasio Cruz, Noel Trinidad, Marra Lanot, Nicholas Pichay, Alfred Yuson, Efren Montano, Rustica Carpio, Eric Mallonga and Ma. Victoria Cu.

Roces, 76, a multi-awarded writer, was education secretary under Ms Macapagal’s late father.

The appointments were announced as members of the movie industry threatened to campaign against all 13 of Ms Macapagal’s handpicked senatorial candidates in the May elections.

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) and the Directors' Guild of the Philippines Inc. (DGPI) joined forces to announce a protest march to Malacañang on Monday, a one-day filming and taping work stoppage, and the "0-13" campaign against the candidates of the People Power Coalition.

As a heated debate continued over whether pornography is in the eye of the beholder, the film's director, Jose Javier Reyes, said the President should have first seen "Live Show" before revoking its exhibition permit earlier this week.

"I wish she saw it first to allow her to make an informed decision. It cannot possibly be pornographic," Reyes said in a radio interview.

Presidential Spokesperson Renato Corona said Ms Macapagal had not personally seen the film about young men and women performers who engage in sex onstage at nightclubs, but had asked aides to review it for her.

Corona said a three-man Palace "appeals committee" would review the film on Monday to decide whether to lift the ban. The committee includes himself, the press secretary and Sonia Ronda, the head of a Catholic women’s group who had reportedly objected to the showing of the film in the first place.

Macapagal aides said the movie, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival last year, had graphic sex scenes and that the President merely employed the police powers of the state to protect public morals.

Sin 'saddened'

But rhetorical language flared with accusations of "clerico-fascism" and "frailocracy," as groups from different sectors lashed out at Ms Macapagal for allegedly bowing to pressure from Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin and "ultra-conservative" groups to revoke the film’s exhibition permit.

Sin, for his part, defended both the President and himself against criticism that the Church was meddling in government affairs.

"It saddens me to hear that the President’s laudable disposition to be a listening President is being misinterpreted as weakness," the cardinal said in a one-page statement.

Tiongson had accused Sin of acting like a "political tactician" during a meeting on Saturday, when the cleric harshly berated him for not doing his job.

In response, Sin admitted, "I can be passionate and intense at times," but added, "I do get passionate when morality is being damaged and our cherished moral values are being eroded."

But Reyes accused the Church of bigotry for allegedly putting pressure on Ms Macapagal to censor the film.

"We artists merely reflect what we see," he said. "I believe in the separation of the Church and State."

And director Mike de Leon called Cardinal Sin a "meddlesome priest."

"Will no one rid us of him?" De Leon complained.

Reyes, however, did not denounce the President’s right to make the decision or the views of "moralists."

"That is within the powers of the President and it is her legal right to pull out the film, considering that the MTRCB is under the powers of the President," Reyes said.

Ironically, movie reviewers of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had found the film fit for adult viewing in a March 9 review.

And just as ironically, the recent publicity has drawn flocks of the curious to downtown theaters still showing the film, which did not previously fare very well at the box office, according to television news reports.


Actors, directors and producers will convene on Morayta and will march from the Far Eastern University (FEU) to Malacañang, starting 1 p.m. Monday.

In respective statements, the CAP and the DGPI predictably supported Tiongson’s decision to resign and attacked censorship.

"It was agreed during our meeting there will be no shooting or taping on Monday to give way to the rally," said director Gil Portes.

"Live Show" producer Lily Monteverde noted that the banning of the film had unified members of the film industry.

"It’s very encouraging to know we are united in the belief of freedom of expression," she said. "The very reason we are gathered is to protect that freedom. Without it, worldwide cinema cannot be possible."

The spokesperson of the militant group Sanlakas, Wilson Fortaleza, warned that censorship was the first step toward greater political repression.

"Today it is free expression in culture that Macapagal suppresses. Tomorrow it is legitimate dissent in politics that government will repress. If we allow "Live Show" to be censored, it is not far off when political rallies will be dispersed," he said.

Gomburza, the national association of militant priests and pastors, accused Ms Macapagal of kowtowing to Church authorities.

"If there are some big shots from the Church who speak of something, she's always ready with her 'amen,'" Fr. Raul Enriquez, vice chair of Gomburza, said in Lucena City.

The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (Progay) defended the movie for "confirm(ing) the view that prostitution is indeed an exploitative trade."

"Let us not fall into this narrow trap of moralizing," Progay said in a statement. "We should let thoughtful critiques such as `Live Show’ tell us to our faces that (the lack of) basic social services are driving our women and men into slavery."

Define policy on porn

Sen. Gregorio Honasan yesterday asked the government to define its policy on pornography in movies and television, as he lamented Tiongson’s resignation.

But the reelectionist senator wanted more drastic action, not less. He said that the government, instead of condemning one film, must go all out against all forms of pornography, such as closing movie houses exhibiting X-rated movies and nightclubs presenting "lewd" shows.

Lay groups associated with the Catholic Church have been instrumental in the banning of a number of acclaimed Hollywood films in the past, including Oscar winners "Schindler's List" and "The Piano." Both films, well reviewed internationally, featured nudity.

Then President Fidel Ramos subsequently overturned the bans.--With reports from Delfin T. Mallari Jr., PDI Southern Luzon Bureau; Jowel Canuday, PDI Mindanao; AFP

*The Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 23, 2001.