MTRCB: A partner in responsible viewing
Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco (The Philippine Star) - April 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Upon its creation in the ’80s, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) was considered a killjoy, particularly by those who were used to the time when unbridled, gratuitous sex and violence in movies were the norm. For many Filipinos then, the MTRCB was first and foremost a censorship board that could and would delete such scenes in offending movies. Artists and sophisticated moviegoers balked but the conservatives and the Catholic Church was very happy. Producers of lewd movies were shamed. The bomba movies of the ’70s became a thing of the past.

The public perception of the MTRCB evolved and later, it became known more as an effective classification board. Moviegoers and television audiences appreciated the age-appropriateness in the ratings of movies and television shows. As a mother of two, I became confident about my children’s protection as they enter the theaters. I did not question the classification of movies as I felt that it was a product of careful study. I applauded the MTRCB suspension of television shows that violated the rules, including one that featured a boy allegedly forced to perform and simulate suggestive movements while crying in front of the live TV studio audience.  Eventually, the MTRCB became one of the more respected institutions in government.

Before my interview with the current MTRCB chair lawyer Eugenio “Toto” Villareal, I honestly thought that his agency was all about reviewing and rating movies and classification and, where warranted, suspension of television shows. As for the chair, all I knew about him was that he was an effective head of office who continued, and built on, the programs of the previous chair (now senator) Grace Poe, and as the guy who appears before the start of movies following a scene of a family deciding on which film to watch. In his short screen appearance, he brings across three important points: (a) film viewing is a family, or otherwise wholesome, activity; (b) the well-being of children is safeguarded; and (c) parents should be involved in their children’s viewing experience.

It was indeed a pleasant surprise to find out that the MTRCB is doing much, much more, in line with its mission to give the public exemplary and globally competitive films and television shows to raise the standard of art for the general public. Even better, the MTRCB, as a catalyst of change, recognizes that movies and TV are indispensable tools for moral recovery and nation-building.

Up close, chair Toto, a devout Catholic, is a man who is deadset on attaining his grand vision for the MTRCB. He wants to focus on the developmental mandate of his agency. In this regard, the chairman emphasizes that the industry players need to be self-driven, and thereby empowering themselves to resolve on their own the issues that arise within the industry. He speaks of mediation, a relatively new term in the MTRCB lingo, and the Best Practices Rule whereby some experiences in the past are reviewed and the lessons learned will be adopted in coming up with solutions for current problems.

According to the chair, “When a problem arises, the better persons who can resolve it are the complainants (for example: The concerned viewers, which may include church leaders) and the one complained against (e.g., the television network and the producers). The board is there to help mediate their differences and facilitate the early resolution of complaints, not necessarily to decide on the solution. Thus, they become responsible and are more than willing to implement the solution because they are the ones who agreed on the solution.” 

Apart from the industry players, the board also solicits support and insights from other individuals, associations from other disciplines and media practitioners to enlighten the parties and the MTRCB in coming up with better solutions and projects. On April 24, chair Toto will be the featured guest speaker before Philippine Intellectual Property Law practitioners (this writer included), through the Intellectual Property Association of the Philippines (IPAP), headed by its president, lawyer Pablo  Gancayco at  the Sycip, Salazar, Hernandez & Gatmaitan Law Offices (tel. no. 982-3500).  

The chairman, being also a professor, has a development streak. He, together with his board, combs the country to spread his advocacies of cooperation and partnership. He strongly espouses that film is not only for entertainment but is a medium to tap the creativity of the directors and other movie industry stakeholders. He wants a more discriminating audience (thus, the film appreciation programs for students, teachers and other sectors) and more responsible producers. More than this, he has advocated that respect for the marginalized, especially women and children, and their rights under the law, be considered in the preparation of television and movie features. For him, the family is of paramount importance, thus the slogan, Matalinong Panonood Para Sa Pamilya Nina Juan At Juana, which has become the catchphrase in the television and movie industry.

We are fortunate to have a developmental chairman of the MTRCB in the person of lawyer Toto Villareal. Now, if only we can have heads of the other government agencies as inspired, hardworking and committed, this country would be a much better place to live in.

(E-mail the author at or text 0927-5000833.)

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