Film Board’s Foes March But Armida Not Quitting

Nov 9th, 1999 | Category: Articles

by Martin P. Marfil, Juliet L. Javellana and Jerome Aning, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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ACTRESSES Carmi Martin, Maritoni Fernandez and Alice Dixson endorse the anti-porn rally to oust the MTRCB chair, even if she’s their movie industry colleague.

THE BATTLE to revamp or abolish the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board has spilled over into the streets.

Thousands of protesters, led by Catholic priests and Protestant ministers, yesterday marched on the Senate accusing the MTRCB of leniency in allowing allegedly pornographic movies to be shown commercially.

”Pornography is not art, it never is,” said the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in a statement.

The protesters also urged President Estrada to sack MTRCB Chair Armida Siguion-Reyna, who is also a movie producer.

Just as the rally was starting at the Senate in Pasay City, Siguion-Reyna declared in Malacañang, ”No, I will not resign.”

She went to Malacañang to announce that the MTRCB has refused to give exhibition permits to ”controversial films” as well as those with ”prurient sexual contents” and ”titillating titles.”

Moralists have been up in arms against the censors for allowing movies with suggestive titles and showing total nudity and graphic sex acts to be publicly screened.

Carrying banners that read ”No to pornography” and ”Protect our women,” the protesters urged the Senate to support a bill filed in the House of Representatives to abolish the MTRCB which has justified its liberal policy as part of artistic freedom.

The CBCP said that while artistic freedom is guaranteed by the country’s democracy, it ”is not absolute, there are responsibilities attached to it.”

The bishops have accused Siguion-Reyna of partiality to the movie producers, being one herself.

As producer of Reyna Films, Siguion-Reyna herself has made such movies as ”Ligaya ang Itawag Mo sa Akin (Call Me Joy)” and ”Ang Mga Lalaki sa Buhay ni Celia (The Men in Celia’s Life),” which both include several scenes of Rosanna Roces in the nude.

Supt. Bayani de la Rea of the Southern Police District’s Civilian Disturbance Control and Management Unit estimated the protest crowd at 5,000. But the rally organizers themselves claimed close to 10,000 people were in attendance.

The organizing group calls itself God’s People Coalition for Righteousness.

”The profusion of vulgar and obscene movies can make us numb to many more abominations around us,” said Isabela Rep. Heherson Alvarez, one of the organizers.

The Catholic archdiocese of Manila was represented by ”running priest” Fr. Roberto Reyes and Fr. Nico Bautista, a former MTRCB member.

‘Ms Siguion-Reyna, being a woman, is contributing to the degradation of her gender,” Reyes said.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Islamic religious also sent representatives who read letters of support during the rally.

Henrietta Mendez, also a former MTRCB chair, pointed out that several movies rated by the MTRCB as PG-13 now have sexually explicit scenes.

Manoling’s wish

Different groups aired different demands during the rally–from the abolition of the MTRCB to the resignation of Siguion-Reyna. But the most extreme ”wish” was made by Manuel Morato, himself a former MTRCB chair.

”Armida disgraced me,” Morato told the crowd in Filipino. ”She called me all sorts of names and she hasn’t stopped.

”If not for the prayers of (Jesus is Lord Movement leader) Bro. Eddie Villanueva, I would have wanted to rape all of them at the MTRCB,” Morato added, and the crowd howled in glee.

Some movie stars were also present: Alice Dixson, Carmi Martin, Maritoni Fernandez and Princess Punzalan.

”I call on my colleagues in the movie industry not to believe that appearing in sexy roles would make them rich and famous,” said Punzalan. ”There are many prices to pay.”

In a 10-minute prayer, Villanueva of the JIL Movement led in ”exorcising” what his followers called the ”board of demons.”

”Featuring obscene movies is a heinous crime, a conspiracy by the MTRCB and the movie producers,” said Villanueva.

Hopeless

Senators who supported the MTRCB abolition were Raul Roco and Renato Cayetano while Robert Jaworski and Francisco Tatad said they wanted the board reconstituted and strengthened.

Jaworski threatened to have the board’s budget slashed if it would not ”correct its flaw.”

Roco said the MTRCB was hopeless and should be abolished.

”The MTRCB is hopeless, no matter who you put there,” he said. ”If you take out Armida, for example, who do you put in her place?

”We as consumers must assert our taste,” Roco added. ”They’re the ones selling and we are the consumers. They must please us. When we transfer the moral judgment to Armida, Fr. (Sonny) Ramirez, look what happens.”

Senators Loren Legarda, Teofisto Guingona and Aquilino Pimentel Jr. also addressed the crowd.

X-ed

In Malacañang, Siguion-Reyna said the MTRCB has given the X-rating to the upcoming movies ”Sex Play,” ”Toro (Bull)” and ”Monay (Bun).”< Two others, ”Dugo ng Birhen (Virgin’s Blood)–El Kapitan” and ”Laging Sariwa ang Sugat (Wound that Doesn’t Heal),” got R ratings, she said.< An X-rating bars the public exhibition of a movie but its producers have the option to elevate their work to the Malacañang Appeals Committee.

Siguion-Reyna rattled off the titles of movies that have been submitted to the MTRCB in the past three weeks.

”Monay” was the hands-down winner, judging by the laughter that it generated from Siguion-Reyna, presidential spokesperson Jerry Barican and reporters.

”Yeah, what a title,” Siguion-Reyna said as she revealed the board’s decision to slap ”Monay” with an X-rating.

Excessive sex

She said ”Monay” received an X-rating after the first and second screenings by the MTRCB.

Produced by Starlight Films, it is directed by William Pascual and stars Klaudia Koronel and Barbara Milano.

On its first screening on Oct. 12, MTRCB directors Mario Hernando, Edmund Sicam and Sophia Macapagal gave it an X, saying ”the film, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interests and satisfies only the market for gratuitous sex.”

The producers gave it a new title when they submitted the movie for a second screening three days later. But ”Masarap Habang Mainit (Good While It’s Hot)” still reeked of ”excessive sex scenes,” said a new set of MTRCB directors.

”Moreover, most of the scenes are gratuitous . . . The repetitiveness of the sexually suggestive jokes and the questionable camera angles add to the overall effect of vulgarity.”

Siguion-Reyna said ”Toro” was also disapproved even before it was presented formally to the MTRCB, after the film director admitted the title referred not to a bull but to the sexual act, she said.

”Titles that are directly connected to the sexual act, masturbation and excretory functions etcetera will not be allowed,” she said.

Without values

”Laging Sariwa,” produced by BSU Films, directed by Portia Alviz and starring starlets Aila Marie and Via Veloso, was slapped an X after the first two screenings because of ”numerous and prolonged scenes with nudity and sexual content without artistic, social or political values.”

Its producers submitted a new version which was ‘’substantially sanitized of long sex scenes.” It romped off with an R rating.

”Dugo ng Birhen,” of Good Harvest Films, directed by Rico Ilarde and starring Klaudia Koronel and Monsour del Rosario, got an X rating after the first screening because of ‘’sex scenes and lots of nudity (that) are not central to the story.”

It got an R rating the second time after the producer made voluntary cuts.

Siguion-Reyna said the MTRCB had taken the following ”necessary and immediate measures:”

o Put on hold the issuance of permits to exhibit controversial movies. ”Toro” was the only one she could cite.

o Called for a meeting with producers and directors to impress on them the need to temper the trend in sex movies.

o Re-evaluated its implementing rules and regulations.

Armida as pornographer

Siguion-Reyna flatly turned down calls for her to resign.

”No, I will not resign because my tenure depends upon the President,” she said in Malacañang. ”If the President tells us (MTRCB) to resign, we will not resist it, but we are not going to resign just to make it easy for the likes of Henrietta Mendez, Manuel Morato, Jess Sison (another former MTRCB chair) and the anti-porno association.

”I don’t know why they insist on painting a portrait of Armida as a pornographer,” she said, saying she would not have produced ”Aawitan Kita” for 28 years even when she was not making money.

”Aawitan Kita” is a television special that features original Filipino music performed by singers that include Siguion-Reyna.

”A pornographer will want to make money,” she said.

She appealed ”for patience,” saying the MTRCB is leading the movie industry toward self-regulation.

”A more sober approach to this whole thing will reveal that both the MTRCB and the so-called moralists do not approve of pornography,” she said.

She found an ally in Barican, who cautioned people against asking the President to take a stronger stance toward pornography, saying this would be a ”dangerous route.”