MANILA, Philippines – The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) will not allow the controversial amateur film “Innocence of Muslims” to be shown on Philippine television and theaters, but they cannot block the film on the Internet.
The anti-Islam film, which portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and a philanderer, has sparked violent protests in the Middle East and parts of Africa targeting United States officials and diplomats.
On Monday, Sulu Rep. Habib Tupay Loong appealed to the Aquino administration to block the film from being shown in the Philippines, as it may cause Muslim groups with ties to al Qaeda to commit terrorist acts.
But in an interview on ANC’s Headstart Tuesday, MTRCB Chairman Grace Poe-Llamanzares said the agency cannot block the film on the video-sharing site YouTube.
“When it comes to the Internet, the MTRCB has no direct jurisdiction over it,” Poe-Llamanzares said.
“On the other hand, the President has signed into law the Anti-Cyber Crime Bill, and supposedly part of that is to form a commission or an agency that will be monitoring Internet activities. Perhaps the MTRCB can later be a part of it,” she added.
“For now, we have no direct authority over the Internet.”
Malacañang on Monday said it has not considered banning the film.
“There are neither precedent nor existing conditions that may prompt us to consider moving in our direction,” said Sec. Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“We will remain alert and vigilant to ensure that similar threats to our security and peace are neutralized effectively,” Coloma added.
Poe-Llamanzares stressed that the MTRCB will not allow “Innocence of Muslims” to be shown on Philippine theaters and television.
“If in case they apply for a permit to show on television or in the movies, then definitely... I don’t think this type of movie will merit a public exhibition permit,” she said.
“First of all, it’s a violation of our code because anything that is immoral, indecent, contrary to law or has a dangerous tendency to incite violence will not be allowed to show for public broadcasting or theatrical release,” Poe-Llamanzares added.
“It’s already been proven that this show on YouTube, there’s been some violent reactions towards this material. I don’t think we should risk it.”
On Monday, some 3,000 Filipino Muslims protested against the film in Marawi City, burning US and Israeli flags and carrying placards saying “Americans are satanic” and “Israeli Jews... enemy of Muslim Ummah (community).”
Poe-Llamanzares also said that not allowing the film to be shown in PH theaters will put Filipinos’ freedom of expression in jeopardy.
“With freedom of expression, it should be worth fight for,” she said, adding that the film “Innocence of Muslims” has “no political, cultural and scientific merit.”
“If you watch it, in my opinion, walang kwenta itong material na ito. I don’t think it’s even worth your time watching this movie,” Poe-Llamanzares said.
“Innocence of Muslims” is a 13-minute amateur film that was reportedly filmed in California. It sparked a violent protest in the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, leading to the death of the US ambassador and three other American diplomats. – With reports from Agence France-Presse; Reuters; Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News; Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com.