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High court upholds MTRCB's suspension of 'Ang Dating Daan'

April 30, 2009 8:14pm
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the three-month suspension imposed by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) on the religious program “Ang Dating Daan" in 2005.

Voting 11-4, the high tribunal said that Eliseo Soriano, the television show’s host, made offensive and obscene remarks during the show’s Aug. 10, 2004 broadcast.

“It is a sanction that the MTRCB may validly impose under its charter without running afoul of the free speech clause," the SC said in a consolidated decision.

The show’s suspension stemmed from a complaint filed by members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), including its minister, Michael Sandoval, who said he felt alluded to by Soriano’s derogatory remarks.

The court, however, clarified that the suspension only covered the show “Ang Dating Daan" and not Soriano because the MTRCB “may not suspend television personalities, for such would be beyond its jurisdiction."

The SC also clarified that the suspension was a "form of permissible administrative sanction or subsequent punishment" and not an act of prior restraint, which constitutes a violation of the right to free speech that is enshrined in the Constitution.

In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the suspension could constitute restraint because it restrains future speech.

“In the absence of proof and reason, he (Soriano) should not be penalized with a three-month suspension that works as a prior restraint on his speech," Puno said.

Also dissenting in the decision was Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who echoed Puno and said the suspension constituted prior restraint.

Carpio said prior restraints may only be justified if they are either "pornography, false or misleading advertisement, advocacy of imminent lawless action, and [or] danger to national security," and "obviously, what (Soriano) uttered does not fall under any of the four." - Carlo Lorenzo and Sophia M. Dedace, GMANews.TV
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