MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals has nullified a cease and desist order issued by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) blocking the local airing of HBO's original series "Big Love", which is a fictional story about a family of polygamists.
In a 26-page decision penned by Associate Justice Mariflor Punzalan-Castillo, the CA’s Fifth Division granted the petition filed by Creative Programs Inc. (CPI), the cable TV production company of ABS-CBN led by Eugenio Lopez III, seeking the lifting of the MTRCB’s order issued on January 26, 2009.
Before it was banned, "Big Love" was aired on Velvet Channel, Sky Cable Channel 53.
The appellate court, in granting CPI’s petition, held that the MTRCB committed grave abuse of discretion and violated its Rule VIII, Section 7 of its Rules of Procedure which requires that a suspension order should not exceed 20 days .
It noted that January 26 cease and desist order issued by the MTRCB does not state its effectivity shall be for twenty days only.
Instead, the order states that the CPI is directed to ease and desist from airing Big Love until the MTRCB has reviewed and classified its proper audience classification rating.
“The statement that the effectivity of the suspension order is until such time that the board is able to review the program does not satisfy the requirement that the suspension order should only be for twenty days as prescribed by the rules. It is clear that the period stated in the subject order is indefinite,” the CA said.
Furthermore, the CA held that the MTCB also failed to mete another requirement under its Rules of Procedure that the suspension order must be issued upon a finding of probable cause.
The suspension order issued by the MTRCB, according to the CA, failed to cited its basis in suspending the airing of Big Love.
While it mentioned that the TV program’s theme is polygamy, the appellate court noted that the MTRCB did not explain how the said theme is being presented in the program and how such presentation tends to condone polygamy.
“Specifically, there was no citation of any scene or language as seen in the program which supports the contention that there was a finding of probable cause for the issuance of the subject suspension order,” the CA said.
“And, to our mind, there mere mention of the theme of the program is not enough to prove that public respondent has come up with a determination of probable cause in this case,” it added.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Josefina Guevara-Salonga and Franchito Diamante.
The case stemmed from the complaint filed Family Media Advocacy Foundation (FMAF) with the MTRCB seeking to prohibit the airing on television of “Big Love” on January 6, 2009 on Sky Cable Channel 53 or the Velvet Channel.
Based on the complaint, the show “depicts a man married to or living openly with his two wives and their respective children which is an obvious bigamous/polygamous relationship.”
FMAF insisted that the show seemed to project that polygamy was normal and acceptable, when in fact, it was a grave offense, immoral, and mocked Filipino family values.
It also cited the Television Code which prohibits the showing of scenes or presentation of any form or perversion as good and attractive, and which states that extra-marital sex shall never be condoned or justified.