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CA strikes down MTRCB suspension of Tulfo brothers' show

March 8, 2013 5:10pm

The Court of Appeals has struck down the suspension order on the Tulfo brothers' TV program in connection with the threats they made against celebrity couple Raymart Santiago and Claudine Baretto, who figured in a scuffle with one of their brothers, Ramon Tulfo.

In a 39-page decision penned by Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang, the CA's Former Sixth Division said the three-month suspension and P100,000 fine imposed by the Movie and Television Review and Clarification Board (MTRCB) on May 30, 2012 was "unwarranted and effectively constituted prior restraint."

The CA said the MTRCB seemed to have "overzealously and mechanically applied its censorship standards and barely considered the limitations set by the Constitution."

"The penalty of three months suspension imposed by MTRCB is much too harsh for the violation... The severe penalty that the MTRCB metes out is akin to a single-strike policy which creates an unsparig and oppressive broadcast media environment rather than one which is tolerant, open and constructive," the CA said.

The CA also noted that the Tulfo brothers' program has been rated "Parental Guidance" and so the average child standard should not have been strictly applied.

During the May 7, 2012 airing of "T3 Kapatid Sagot Kita" on TV5, show hosts Raffy, Erwin, and Ben Tulfo hurled threats against Raymart and Claudine after the couple allegedly mauled Ramon at the airport for supposedly taking a video of an incensed Claudine berrating an airline employee.

In their program, the brothers called Raymart and Claudine liars (“saksakan kayo ng sinungaling”) and uttered the words "Tatamaan at tatamaan ka... pati asawa mo tatamaan sa akun" and "Antabayanan mo ang lintik na ganti ng Tulfo."

The TV5 management, in response, punished the three brothers with a three-episode suspension.

Meanwhile, the MTRCB found them liable for "clear violation of ethical standards set and followed in the broadcasting industry," and eventually handed down the suspension order and fine imposition, prompting TV5 to raise the matter before the CA.

The CA, in its ruling, emphasized the suspension order handed down by the TV5 management on the brothers.

"The significance of this act of self-regulation by  TV5 is very crucial in our conclusion that the MTRCB imposed its power in a heavy handed manner and ignored the fact that TV5 franchise's, like that of other television networks, provides for concurrent rights and responsibilities," the CA division said.

The court said the Tulfo brothers' utterances in their program "cannot be strictly categorized as obscene and indecent, conclusively defamatory nor constituted fighting words but rather ordinary threats as understood in their totality and the context in which they were made."

The CA stressed that it was not choosing free speech and freedom of the media over government protection of the viewing public and children from unwarranted speech.

"By annulling what we see as an unnecessary government measure that might eventually metastasize as a form of prior restraint, we are confident that deciding in favor of more speech rather than sustaining a form of censorship will eventually lead to a more informed and tolerant society," the CA said. — Mark Merueñas/KBK, GMA News
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