Sotto-Antonio, Padilla wrong on banning Plane

Undoubtedly, bandits are everywhere in the world, and bandits are, by their very nature, despicable.

Senator Robinhood Padilla’s opposition to the public exhibition in the Philippines of the Hollywood film “Plane” has been the subject of criticism by many legal minds in the country.
An overview is in order.

Plane” is about an aircraft carrying westerners that crashed in the jungles of Mindanao, the Philippines. At first, the survivors thought they had landed near Davao City, but when they were captured by local armed bandits, they learned that they had crashed in Jolo. As the story goes, the survivors were maltreated by their captors.

As stated earlier, Senator Padilla opposed the public exhibition of “Plane”. He said the film put Filipinos in a bad light and gave a bad impression of the country to foreign tourists.

Senator Ronald de la Rosa agreed with Padilla because, he said, the film also gave his native Davao City a bad image.

Apparently, the inutile Movie and Television Review and Classification Board headed by Diorella Maria Sotto-Antonio took its cue from the two senators and promised to prohibit the public exhibition of the film.

The film distributor, however, pre-empted the MTRCB and announced that it was withdrawing the movie from the Philippines.

Padilla must have felt victorious over his latest populist political adventure.

Although a few personalities agreed with Padilla and the MTRCB, there was hardly any public support for the banning of the film.

Lawyer Harry Roque said banning “Plane” smacked of unconstitutional prior restraint, which is also known as censorship. Roque is right.

Like most motion pictures, “Plane” is a work of fiction. The closing credits of films like Plane even carry a disclaimer to this effect. Being a work of fiction, banning the public exhibition of the film in the Philippines for the reasons cited by Senators Padilla and De la Rosa is legally untenable.

If Plane should be banned in the country because it puts Filipinos in an embarrassing light to the world, then the same ought to be said about most local television serials that seem to suggest that modern-day Filipinos are hysterical, high-strung, disloyal and scheming, among other bad traits.

More often than not, these local programs focus on themes like philandering husbands, unfaithful wives, ungrateful adopted children, illegitimate offspring, greedy siblings, hateful in-laws, interfering relatives, neighborhood gossip, property disputes, corporate maneuvers, poverty, urban decay, drug addiction, kidnapping for ransom, domestic violence and powerful but corrupt politicians, all amidst dialogue frequently punctuated with high-strung lines and accompanied by hysterical, even violent behavior.

Since these local television serials are accessible abroad, they can, like “Plane”, give Filipinos a bad image to foreigners. Why then is Padilla letting these serials escape his watch? In the same light, why does the MTRCB allow these serials to be broadcast?

There are many Hollywood fictional films set in the Philippines, which happen to include scenes of beggars and prostitutes in the streets, and even the garbage visible in many streets of Metropolitan Manila. Following the “logic” behind its ban on “Plane”, why does the MTRCB allow these movies to be shown in Philippine cinema theatres?

Presidential Decree 1986, the charter of the MTRCB, authorizes the board to prohibit the public exhibition in the Philippines of any film which is “injurious to the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines or its people.”

Undoubtedly, bandits are everywhere in the world, and bandits are, by their very nature, despicable. Bandits, whether male or female, young or old, and regardless of their political, religious, or ethnic creed or orientation, are and will always be bandits, whoever or wherever they may be.

Accordingly, it is inconceivable how an obviously fictional film like “Plane”, which is about innocent airplane passengers captured by bandits who happen to be in the Philippines, and are eventually rescued, can be “injurious to the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines or its people.”

Perhaps, Sotto-Antonio and Padilla need to read up on the constitutional aspects of film censorship.

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