Sunday, September 23, 2007

X-rating of MTRCB a violation of freedom of speech & expression--FJBM

Since Jonas Burgos was abducted by the military last April 28, 2007, the family and friends of Jonas Burgos organized the FREE JONAS BURGOS MOVEMENT (FJBM) precisely to campaign for the immediate and safe release of Jonas Burgos and other desaparecidos.

One of the campaigns of the FJBM, with the help of other organizations and artists, is the production of Public Service Ads called “RIGHTS”, a collection of independently produced advocacy plugs about the present human rights situation in the Philippines. Different artists and filmmakers freely and creatively participated in the growing movement to defend human rights in the country. “RIGHTS” was slated to be shown at the Robinsons Galleria, Cinema 3on September 21, 2007.

On September 19, 2007, the Independent Filmmakers Cooperative (IFC), who is helping the FJBM, received a letter from the Movie & Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) Chairman Consoliza Laguardia. The MTRCB informed the IFC that “RIGHTS” was reviewed on September 18, and was classified “X”—Not Fit for Public Exhibition for the following reasons: “Scenes in this films are presented unfairly, one-sided, and undermines the faith and confidence of the people in the government and duly constituted authorities, thus, not fit for public viewing.”

We are very disappointed with the decision of the MTRCB to classify “RIGHTS” with an “X” rating. The ruling stifles freedom of the speech and expression and serves only the interests of the government.

When Jonas was abducted, the Burgos Family went to different democratic institutions of this government. The family asked for the help of the following institution: Commission on Human Rights, which up to now has yet to release its findings on the Jonas case; The Philippine National Police, which is not even vigorously investigating the abduction of Jonas and now seems to be a part of the cover-up of this government; The Armed Forces of the Philippines, which up to now has yet to release its provost martial report even though Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said they will abide by the court’s decision; The Office of the President, Department of Justice, which after state prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco ordered the investigation of different agents of the state was sacked by the Secretary of Justice for the premature revelation to the media of vital information about the case. And now the MTRCB is telling us that scenes in the “RIGHTS” as UNFAIR, ONE-SIDED and UNDERMINES THE FAITH and CONFIDENCE OF THE PEOPLE IN THEIR GOVERNMENT and/or DULY CONSTITUTED AUTHORITIES.

I remember that my father, the late JOSE BURGOS JR., fought for freedom of speech and expression during the dark years of martial law, I though that we have it now.

The FJBM is saddened by this development. Is this the democracy that this government wants? Is this the democracy that our martyrs and heroes of martial law era fought for?

Today, as we remember the ugly past of Martial Law, I would like to raise a question… who is now UNFAIR, ONE-SIDED and UNDERMINES THE FAITH and CONFIDENCE OF ITS PEOPLE?
The Free Jonas Burgos Movement will oppose censorship. We will oppose political repression. And we will oppose human rights violations.

Convenor, FJBM