TWO GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and the University of the Philippines (UP), are at loggerheads.
In a letter sent to UP president Emerlinda R. Roman on Feb. 17, board chair Marissa Laguardia expressed concern over “the public and commercial exhibition of films in the UP Film [Institute] that have no corresponding permits.”
Some of these films, Laguardia said in the letter, were shown in UP “despite the fact that they had been classified by the [board] as unfit for public exhibition.”
Laguardia pointed out that these films were shown “not for educational purposes but clearly for commercial exhibition … [and were] made available to the public at a cost between P150 to P250 per person.”
Laguardia reiterated that Presidential Decree No. 1986 “prohibits the public and commercial exhibition of films without a permit from the board.”
She added that Republic Act No. 9500 or the UP Charter of 2008 “doesn’t exempt UP or the UP Film [Institute] from the jurisdiction of the MTRCB.”
Responding to Laguardia’s letter, UP vice president for legal affairs Theodore O. Te on March 2 requested the MTRCB for copies of the “reports” on the alleged screenings of films without permits, as well as on the commercial screenings that charged P150 to P250 per ticket.
In his reply, Te stressed that the UP Film Center and UP Film Institute “are integral parts of the academic and educational purposes of the University and … covered by academic freedom guaranteed not only by RA 9500, but also by the Constitution.”
Te said the request for “specific details and not general imputations” was being made “so we may also investigate these alleged violations.”
MTRCB member Mario Hernando told the Inquirer that during the tenure of chair Armida Siguion-Reyna, the MTRCB identified these venues as “censorship-free”: Cultural Center of the Philippines, embassies, and University of the Philippines.
Without the U.P. Film Center, I wouldn't have been able to see the works of Ishmael Bernal, Mike de Leon and Lino Brocka on the widescreen, the way it was intended to be: larger than life visual celebrations and experiments of and about life.
Just recently, it has been host to uncut showings of gay-centric movies that are more often than not erotic in nature. I have not seen any of these so I cannot comment on the explicitness of the films.
But does it really matter?
U.P is (and of course I could be wrong) the only place left in the country where one can grow up in an environment that is closest to the concept of academic freedom. Back in the 1990s, our Creative Writing professors encouraged us, no, begged us to live without fear, to enjoy the freedom the university offered because the "outside world" will neither be as tolerant nor welcoming to public displays of expression.
Sadly, they were right.
Now, this freedom that students have enjoyed since 1908 is in danger. A question posed against the U.P. Film Center is a question posed against what the University of the Philippines stands for.