Pimentel says ban on Erap film is censorship

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 01 2008 05:37 PM | Updated as of Dec 02 2008 07:56 PM

Former president Joseph Estrada has found an unlikely ally in his quest to publicly exhibit a documentary about his life despite being banned by the Court of Appeals.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. said the Court of Appeals went overboard when it imposed certain conditions before the government can lift the ban on the public exhibition of "Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa”, a documentary film on former president Estrada.

“The Court of Appeals’ decision affirming the ban on Erap’s bio-flick smacks of undue censorship. Even wrong information in films falls under the mantle of freedom of speech. The administration can rebut it but it can’t bar the views that it doesn’t like," Pimentel said.

Originally, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) ruled that the documentary “Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa” was unfit for public exhibition on the ground that it tended to undermine political stability and it was libelous and defamatory.

The Court of Appeals said the film may only be shown in public if its producer, Public Perception Management Asia, Inc., revised a section that had portrayed Estrada's fall from power in January 2001 as a "power grab" by then vice president Gloria Arroyo, who had succeeded him.

It also demanded that the documentary include "replies by personalities defamed" by the film, including Arroyo, the Supreme Court chief justice and House of Representatives speaker at the time, and Estrada predecessor Fidel Ramos, among others.

Estrada, now 70, was toppled from power in a bloodless, military-backed uprising in 2001 after he became the first leader of the Southeast Asian nation to be impeached for alleged corruption.

The Supreme Court later ruled that Arroyo, who has since won a disputed presidential election in 2004, had legally taken over the presidency in 2001, dismissing a legal challenge from the deposed leader.

Estrada was arrested in April 2001 and put on trial for corruption, and was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 2007. However he was pardoned by Arroyo two months after his sentencing.
 
Pimentel expressed the view that the purpose of the documentary film, which is to present the Estrada’s version on what he called a “conspiracy” to oust him from power, is well within the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution
 
It can be recalled that it was Pimentel who presided over Estrada's aborted impeachment trial in late 2000. Pimentel resigned as Senate president in Jan. 17, 2001 after Estrada allies voted to keep closed an envelope containing a statement on the former president's alleged secret bank account.

The January 17 Senate vote started the four-day bloodless revolt that culminated with Estrada's ouster. With AFP