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Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Palace sidesteps ‘Da Vinci’ storm

CATHOLIC bishops in the Philippines were split on Tuesday in their reaction to the movie version of The Da Vinci Code, with one archbishop calling for a ban.

The movie, starring Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, is set to be screened on May 18 in the Philippines, a bastion of Catholicism in Asia, amid a global controversy over its story line.

It is adapted from Dan Brown’s best-selling novel that says Jesus Christ married the biblical character Mary Magdalene and started a sacred bloodline that still exists in secret.

The book has stirred up intense debate among religious scholars and has been branded blasphemous by some Catholics around the world.

In the Philippines Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said he would lead a crusade to ban the film because it is “sacrilegious against God.”

Brown’s book, released here last year, did not elicit similar controversy.


“In a predominantly Christian country like the Philippines, making publicly available such film is sinfully condoning blasphemy and undermining the very limits of the people’s values and religious foundation,” Arguelles said in a letter to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

But Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said banning the movie would only stir up more interest.

“We neither oppose nor endorse its showing. We don’t want to ride on the commercialization and marketing hype, because we know that this is all marketing strategy and the bottom line here is money—it’s not religion,” Quitorio said.

The Catholic flock should just treat the movie as “really entertainment, nothing more, nothing less,” he said, adding that he had read the book and found it “entertaining.”

Banned movie

In 1988 the government banned The Last Temptation of Christ, but it has since found its way to Catholic homes through digital videodiscs.

Presidential Adviser on Culture and the Arts Cecille Guidote Alvarez said Malacañang will not meddle in The Da Vinci movie controversy.

She said the board is in better position to determine whether to allow the film to be shown.

Alvarez said the MTRCB has reviewed the movie. “It depends on how the film will be classified. If it’s for adults only, then the children of course would not be allowed to watch it. I will not base my comment on what others have said. I haven’t read the book, I haven’t seen the film,” Alvarez said.

Protecting moviegoers’ rights

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has stepped into the fray, cautioning the MTRCB against providing permits to films that may infringe on the rights of moviegoers.

The commission made the warning as the Philippine Alliance Against Pornography accused the MTRCB of abusing its authority by allowing the movie to be shown.

Ed Diansuy, CHR spokesman, said the commission will investigate the Philippine Alliance’s complaint and come out with a position before the film is showin on May 18.

“The MTRCB should give rates of films that do not violate the human rights of the people nor affect their general welfare.  The film should contain moral lessons not detrimental to the public,” he said.

In its complaint before the CHR, the group asked the commission to investigate MTRCB Chairman Ma. Consoliza Laguardia.
--AFP, Sam Mediavilla and Mark Ivan Roblas




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