Manila just following the law in banning Erap biopic, says lawyer

The City of Manila was “merely implementing the law” when it barred the exhibition of former president Joseph Estrada’s film biography in Plaza Miranda and other venues in the Philippine capital.

According to lawyer Melchor Monsod, Manila City Legal Officer, city officials had no other choice but to prohibit the showing of Estrada’s biopic, Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa (To Live for the Masses), because the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) gave the film an X-rating or deemed unsuitable for public viewing.

"By law, the MTRCB has the authority to review and determine the classification of films and materials for public viewing,” Monsod said. “This is not a question of deprivation of anybody's rights and suppression of freedom of speech and expression."

This is in reaction to Estrada’s planned court action against Manila Mayor Lito Atienza to reverse its decision to ban the film in the city.

Estrada lawyer Rufus Rodriguez said the former president will file a Petition for Mandamus before the Regional Trial Court to compel Atienza to reverse his order. Rodriguez also pointed that Mayor Atienza’s decision demonstrates a grave abuse of authority thereby violating the constitution’s mandate on freedom of expression.

Monsod however stressed the courts would not entertain the petition because of the pending appeal before the Office of the President to reconsider the initial MTRCB ruling.

"This remedy, undertaken by Estrada's party, is provided for by law,” Monsod said. “Accordingly, the pendency of the appeal would be a bar for the regular courts to entertain any petition since it violates the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedy and the rule on forum shopping,"

The MTRCB issued an X-rating on the Estrada documentary in its second and final review last August. In a memorandum released on August 28, the MTRCB cited four reasons for the rating: “threaten the political stability of the state; undermine the faith and confidence of the people in the government; [be] libelous or defamatory; [pertained] to matters that are sub judice in nature.”

Monsod further pointed out that the city government was simply complying with the X-rating given by the MTRCB when it decided not to issue a permit to exhibit the Estrada documentary. He also said that Atienza, in his years of being Mayor of Manila, is known for meticulously following the rule of law.






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