Mocha, MTRCB, and censorship
NO one has so far come forward to formally question and ask the courts to stop President Duterte’s appointment of Mocha Uson as member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
It could be done, especially if critics of both the President and Uson could present arguments and bases for her disqualification and ineligibility. They could even formally appeal to the President first, if they are really serious.
But it is both difficult and self-defeating for the critics to make such a legal move, if it would be based on the arguments and bases they have so far been able to present.
What would they say in the pleading? That the President has “no right” to appoint? That Uson is ineligible and disqualified because they perceive her to be nothing more than a “slut”? That there are “infinitely better” artists to be appointed as censors?
They are too clever to expose their hyperpartisan, sexist, and pro-censorship selves before the courts, and they could only make “pasiklab” in their petty political theater.
Yes, the criticisms have only been displays of hyperpartisanship, sexism, and small-mindedness, nothing more.
The transparently cheap attempt to divide the movie industry by pitting Uson against “more deserving” artists magnificently flopped. In showbiz parlance, “nilangaw.”
They have not succeeded because the issue is less about Duterte and Uson. It is more about the MTRCB and censorship. And it is an issue that a politically corrupt opposition cannot begin to grasp.
The great Lino Brocka, the fearless Behn Cervantes, the Free the Artist Movement, and the Concerned Artists of the Philippines didn’t stand up to the Marcos dictatorship merely because of the tyrant’s choice of censors. They wanted a complete and total end to censorship.
It is this belief that only in an atmosphere of freedom and without censorship could the artists be true to themselves, to their craft, to their community and to the audience. And it compelled them not only to make great cinema that was defiant, true, and beautiful. It required the artists to take their place in the frontlines of national struggle.
Through Presidential Decree 1986, Marcos changed the name of the Board of Censors to the seemingly harmless MTRCB, but the effect and objective were the same: to legalize censorship, and to control the television and movie industries.
The real challenge here to Duterte has been the same challenge to all postMarcos presidents and the post-dictatorship order: To abolish the MTRCB, to stop censorship and to free the artists.
Brocka himself laid the constitutional foundation for such a positive change when, as a member of the Constitutional Commission, he succeeded in enshrining the right to free expression in the Constitution.
But 30 years after the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, the MTRCB survives, and the 2017 political opposition is clueless about an issue so sacred to the movie and television industry workers. No surprise that the artists didn’t fall for their insipid politics.
The artists are also ambivalent to Duterte, Uson and the “change” they supposedly represent. As correctly pointed out by more thoughtful reportage, Uson aspires to be a new “guardian of morality” for primetime television, and seeks to prosecute her own war on “soft-porn.”
For all his bravery, Duterte proves no different from other presidents and the system he presides by not being ready for the change aspired for by artists. The MTRCB survives and would continue to shackle the artists. For the not-so-different opposition too, it cannot bear to imagine a future without the MTRCB, along with their fantasies of a political comeback.
It is ironic that censorship and self-censorship have become both pernicious and accepted as a fact of post-Marcos life, even as we profess to stand against historical revisionism and any attempt to impose a new dictatorship. It is most painful to our artists.
Uson joins an MTRCB that has devised seemingly harmless ways to keep movies and television behave according to acceptable formula. The classification seems benign, but the effects harmful and far-reaching. Classifications can make or break a movie, can compel the artist to compromise with a cut here or there, can promote only the formula, can dissuade the brave, and so on. For the artist, the MTRCB remains an instrument of censorship, and the audience should only remember the classifications for the MMFF 2016 entries to understand this.
True, many other artists have joined the MTRCB as chair, as vice chair or as members. But as history teaches us, they fight a lonely fight from the inside and outside. Other forces, like faiths, always seek to influence its classifications, even if the artists would always stand for the widest possible of latitude of free expression per movie.
The fact remains that 30 years after the overthrow of Marcos, the same 30-member presidential board of censors continue to exist decide what is fit to be watched in theaters and in television, and by whom. It is an unchanged situation that keeps artists and audience under a leash.
Fresh from the euphoria of the triumphant MMFF 2016, it is perhaps instructive and humbling to remember the immortal words of Brocka, our national artist for film: “The artist is always a participant. He tries to be true not only to his craft but also to himself. For it is the supreme duty of the artist to investigate the truth, no matter what forces attempt to hide it. And then to report it to the people, to confront them with it, like a whiplash that will cause wounds but will free the mind from the various fantasies and escapist fare that the Establishment pollutes our minds with.”
Yes, like all artists, Uson can free herself from the “pressure” of being a censor in the MTRCB, and stand in solidarity with all artists and the people against censorship.
The issue is in reality about the readiness of Duterte, the opposition and this system give up the power to censor and to abolish the MTRCB. And about artists’ and our own readiness to claim the right to free expression which Brocka and other most brilliant freedom-fighters have long challenged us to aspire for.