DOCTRINE: Press freedom may be identified with the liberty to discuss publicly and truthfully any matter of public concern without censorship or punishment. The general principle is that freedom of expression is the rule and restrictions the exemption. The power to exercise prior restraint is not to be presumed, rather the presumption is against its validity. FACTS: * The principal petitioner is Jose Antonio U. Gonzalez, President of the Malaya Films. * The respondent is the Board of Review for Motion Pictures and Television (BRMPT), with Maria Kalaw Katigbak as its Chairman and Brig.
Gen. Wilfredo C. Estrada as its Vice-Chairman, also named respondents. * On October 23, 1984, a permit to exhibit the film Kapit sa Patalim under the classification “For Adults Only,” with certain changes and deletions enumerated was granted by a sub-committee of the BRMPT. * Motion for reconsideration was filed by petitioners stating that the classification of the film “For Adults Only” was without basis. For petitioners, such classification “is without legal and factual basis and is exercised as impermissible restraint of artistic expression.
The film is an integral whole and all its portions, including those to which the Board now offers belated objection, are essential for the integrity of the film. Viewed as a whole, there is no basis even for the vague speculations advanced by the Board as basis for its classification. ” * The respondents in their answer submitted that the standard of the law (Executive Order 878) for classifying films afford a practical and determinative yardstick for the exercise of judgment. For them, the question of the sufficiency of the standards remains the only question at issue.
ISSUE: WoN the standards employed by the BRMPT are sufficient and conform to what the Constitution ordains. HELD: * YES. Petition dismissed. RATIO: * The importance of motion pictures as an organ of public opinion is not lessened by the fact that they are designed to entertain as well as to inform. There is no clear dividing line between what involves knowledge and what affords pleasure. If such a distinction were sustained, there is a diminution of the basic right to free expression. * Press freedom may be identified with the liberty to discuss publicly and truthfully any matter of public concern without censorship or punishment.However, this freedom is not absolute. It can be limited if there is a clear and present danger of a substantive evil that the State has a right to prevent. * Censorship or previous restraint is, except in exceptional circumstances, a sine qua non for the meaningful exercise of the right of free speech. However, for the purposes of this litigation, the emphasis should rightly be on freedom from censorship. Freedom of the press consists in the right to print what one chooses without any previous license. * Therefore, to avoid an unconstitutional taint on its creation, the power of respondent Board is limited to the classification of films.It can, to safeguard other constitutional objections, determine what motion pictures are for general patronage and what may require either parental guidance or be limited to adults only. That is to abide by the principle that freedom of expression is the rule and restrictions the exemption. The power to exercise prior restraint is not to be presumed, rather the presumption is against its validity. * Censorship, especially so if an entire production is banned, is allowable only under the clearest proof of a clear and present danger of a substantive evil to public safety, public morals, public health or any other legitimate public interest. On the matter of obscenity, the Court cited Roth v. US: * “All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance have the full protection of the guaranties, unless excludable because they encroach upon the limited area of more important interests. But implicit in the history of the First Amendment is the rejection of obscenity as utterly without redeeming social importance. ” * The early leading standard of obscenity allowed material to be judged merely by the effect of an isolated excerpt upon particularly susceptible persons. The Hicklin Test) * However, in determining what is obscene, the Court follows Roth: “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest. ” * Moreover, citing US v Bustos, the Court held that while recognizing the principle that libel is beyond the pale of constitutional protection, it left no doubt that in determining what constitutes such an offense, a court should ever be mindful that no violation of the right to freedom of expression is allowable. In the applicable law, Executive Order No. 876, reference was made to respondent Board “applying contemporary Filipino cultural values as standard. ” On the question of obscenity, therefore, and in the light of the facts of this case, such standard set forth in Executive Order No. 876 is to be construed in such a fashion to avoid any taint of unconstitutionality. There can be no valid objection to the sufficiency of the controlling standard and its conformity to what the Constitution ordains. Respondent board sumits that “the adult classification given the film serves as a warning to theater operators and viewers that some contents of Kapit are not fit for the young. Some of the scenes in the picture were taken in a theater-club and a good portion of the film shots concentrated on some women erotically dancing naked, or at least nearly naked, on the theater stage. Another scene on that stage depicted the women kissing and caressing as lesbians. And toward the end of the picture, there exists scenes of excessive violence attending the battle between a group of robbers and the police.The vulnerable and imitative in the young audience will misunderstand these scenes. ” * That there was an abuse of discretion by respondent Board is evident. Moreover, its perception of what constitutes obscenity appears to be unduly restrictive. Nonetheless, there are not enough votes to maintain that such an abuse can be considered grave. Note: This ruling is to be limited to the concept of obscenity applicable to motion pictures. Television calls for a less liberal approach.