When Armida Siguion-Reyna (left) took over as the chief of MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board), she clearly stated that her board would not be known as "guardians of morality." Instead, her term would push for the growth of the film industry, so that it will be a vital cog in helping the country grow as a nation. Consoliza Laguardia (right) is the incumbent chairperson of the board. But unlike most heads of MTRCB, her eyes are more focused on the television. She closely monitors the language, themes, and visual content of TV shows. Photo: Noel Orsal (Armida Siguion-Reyna) and Melo Balingit (Consoliza Laguardia)

In an interview with PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal), veteran actor Ernie Garcia described the problems that he and some of his movies had with strict moralists and, of course, the powerful board of censors.

"Minsan, isang araw lang sa sinehan 'yong pelikula then ipu-pull out. Naka-padlock na 'yong movie theaters kinabukasan, kasi may reklamo galing sa ibang grupo," he recalled with a tinge of nostalgia.

Ernie, who was known in the ‘70s as a sexy actor, was unconvinced with the way some of his films were screened to determine whether they were "unfit for public viewing" or not. He argued that some of the complainants neither watched his sexy films nor saw the execution of the "daring" scene.

"'Yong iba, hindi naman nila napanood and akala naman garapal na ‘yong mga eksena pero hindi naman. May isa lang na mag-reklamo and ayon, madami ng makikisali," he said tersely.

Even as Ernie now enjoys a serene lifestyle as an artist, the problems he and his peers encountered before are the same ones faced by the TV and movie stars of today.

MTRCB THROUGH THE YEARS. After the Philippines declared independence for the second time (the first was on June 12, 1898, against the Spanish regime) on July 4, 1946 (after U.S. colonization), our lawmakers enacted Republic Act No. 3060, creating the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures (BCMP), which had a hold on television programs as well.

In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was elected president. Gradually he altered and strengthened the powers of the censorship board on his way to declaring Martial Law on September 21, 1972.

Escalating the power of the censors coincided with Marcos's desire to monitor and restrict films, shows, and even theater performances that carried socio-political themes attacking his administration. He replaced the BCMP with the Board of Review for Motion Pictures and Television (BRMPT).

On October 5, 1985, Marcos abolished the BRMPT and formed the Movie and Television Regulation and Classification Board (MTRCB), fully establishing the scope and jurisdiction of censorship in the country.

According to the MTRCB preamble, the organization was formed around the need to introduce "innovative and fresh ideas toward the improvement and development of the film and television industry," and to "improve, upgrade and make viable the industry as one source of fueling the national economy."

But it mentions nothing about "setting standards for cultural refinement of the movies and television." Nor does it give the board the responsibility "to keep society's moral balance."

Throughout the history of MTRCB, its critics have noted that the standards and qualifications for its rulings depend on the personality, character and moral stance of whoever is the incumbent chairperson.

THE MORATO REGIME (1986 - 1992). Manuel Morato assumed the MTRCB leadership after Marcos's ouster in the historic 1986 EDSA Revolt.

As a strict moralist who proclaimed the value of celibacy, Morato quickly earned the ire of the movie industry with his iron-fisted rule.

Morato's primary concern was the youth and their "preservation of morality"—which didn't sit well with producers, directors, and liberal-minded artists.