MANILA, Philippines — “What about cutting out that scene?”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. made this suggestion amid calls to ban the now controversial animated film “Abominable,” which has been earlier pulled out from cinemas in Vietnam due to a scene displaying China’s unilaterally imposed “nine-dash line.”
“What about cutting out that scene? You’re a lawyer, on what ground can we ban — and which agency has that power — an implicit message, assuming any Filipino will assert his First Amendment right in the case?” Locsin asked Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, over Twitter late Tuesday.
Taking it a step further, Locsin even suggested a “universal boycott of all @Dreamworks productions from here on.”
He was reacting to Batongbacal’s tweet saying the movie “should be banned.”
“Abominable” is a joint production by Dreamworks and China’s Pearl Studio.
Responding to Locsin, Batongbacal said: “Agree this is a slippery slope, but think we should push back vs. CN propaganda tactics nonetheless.”
“MTRCB [Movie and Television Review and Classification Board] technically has power to require deletion of objectionable portions of films for reasons that include being ‘injurious to the prestige of the Rep. of the Philippines or its people’ (PD 1986, sec. 3, para. c) (which) is what this does if we quietly allow it to be shown without some form of protest,” he noted.
Batongbacal also said that should the movie be “allowed to be shown without offending portion” then a “call for boycott should still be made as a strong statement against such tactics.”
He added that, under the presidential decree he earlier cited, the MTRCB coiuldl also “prohibit importation and exhibition of films for same reason.”
“But I think DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] role is recommendatory (though strongly persuasive) rather than direct, since MTRCB is not under it. Public clamor/boycott may complement DFA view, if any,” he added.
READ: Palace: Up to MTRCB, DFA chief to pull out ‘Abominable’ from cinemas
Vietnam banned the animated film because of a scene depicting the U-shaped line used on Chinese maps to justify China’s historic claims over vast expanses of the resource-rich South China Sea, including large waters of Vietnam.
READ: Vietnam pulls ‘Abominable’ film over South China Sea map
Aside from Vietnam, the Philippines, and China, other countries — namely Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei — also have overlapping claims over the South China Sea.
In 2016, China’s so-called nine-dash line was invalidated in a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines filed the case before the international tribunal in 2013 to challenge Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.
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