MANILA, Philippines – A group of artists have spoken out against statements from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) against the long-running teleserye FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, pointing out that they were "attacks on freedom of expression."
“Their attempts to intervene and dictate the narrative in favor of the PNP are tantamount to censorship and suppression of creative freedom,” the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) said in a statement released on Saturday, November 17.
“This conveys a chilling message to all TV producers, writers, and directors: do not criticize us or cast us in an unflattering light, or risk retaliation in various means.”
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año and PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde earlier decried the show’s portrayal of policemen, with the former suggesting taking legal action against the show, and the latter raising police concerns to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
On November 16, DILG Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya said in a statements that the agency would “seriously consider filing legal action and imposing sanctions” if the show, starring Coco Martin continues with its “grossly unfair and inaccurate portrayal of our police force.”
In the show, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is portrayed as having a corrupt chief and vengeful former cops. (READ: DILG to sue Ang Probinsyano if plot is not changed)
CAP compared the DILG and PNP’s remarks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s red-baiting of Martial Law film screenings in September 2018.
“Their outrageous scenario of a ‘Red October’ fizzled out; their bid to extend its narrative to December and beyond is laughable at best. The statements by Año and Albayalde, however, indicate that the DILG, AFP, and PNP are now targetting not only film but also television productions,” CAP said.
They questioned why the agencies are focusing on the portrayal of the bad cops in the show, despite the protagonist Cardo, played by Coco Martin, being a good cop.
“Is it because this is the more accurate mirror of the truth?” they said.
CAP said that the “real-life conditions which lead to unrest” under the Duterte administration should be addressed on the ground, and not by asking to revise scripts. The DILG’s and PNP’s remarks, they said, are among the many threats to freedom of expression under the Duterte administration.
“We are worried over how the nonstop assaults of the Duterte administration against freedom of expression are laying the grounds for the establishment of a crony media, similar to the days under the fascist Marcos dictatorship,” they said.
“Remember that Pres. Duterte and his minions have already initiated various moves against mass media institutions critical of the administration’s policies and actions, such as the threat of non-renewal for media franchises and banning of certain outlets from official coverage.”
Año’s human rights record
CAP went on to say that Año is “certainly in no position” to ask creatives to sanitize the PNP and AFP’s record of human rights violations.
CAP recalled the human rights violations that were supposedly committed under Año’s watch. They cited the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos in April 2007, in which Año was allegedly involved, and for which he faced a criminal case filed by Burgos’ mother, Edita. (READ: 10 years later, search for Jonas Burgos continues)
They also cited Año’s stint as commander of the 10th Infantry Division commander in 2015, when 3 Lumad leaders were allegedly massacred in Davao City by the 69th Infantry Battalion (IB). The 69th IB was then under the 10th ID.
“Now that he is in the civilian bureaucracy as head of the DILG, Año continues to rack up a record of impunity and threat to human rights which resonates with his bloody human rights record and reputation as a military official. But no amount of censorship and whitewashing can cover up the stink of misdeeds and abominable actions of the past,” CAP said.
On November 15, Año called for the rewrite of Ang Probinsyano, saying that the show is damaging to the morale of the police force.
Ang Probinsyano, which has been running on ABS-CBN since 2015, is based on the 1997 film starring Fernando Poe Jr. The show follows SPO2 Cardo Dalisay, an honest, hardworking policeman who has to contend with corrupt politicians and officials, including the chief of police, General Delfin Borja. – Rappler.com