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
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
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.”
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