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MY FOUR CENTAVOS - Dean Andy Bautista (The Philippine Star) - September 13, 2014 - 12:00am

Commuters regularly plying EDSA do not only have to protect themselves against destructive rogue cops that are apparently part of robbery/kidnapping (hulidap) syndicates; they also have to contend with distracting commercial billboards featuring topless males. These advertisements which dot the country’s main thoroughfare (particularly in the Makati-Mandaluyong boundary) are part of an advertising campaign by a leading clothing brand to promote “the Naked Truth” which is a denim and underwear fashion show scheduled this month. 

 The ads remind me of a raunchy campaign (mounted by the same group) a few years ago featuring members of the Volcanoes rugby team sporting their underwear.  This led Representatives Harlin Abayon and Fred Castro to file House bill 1407 which prohibits the display of obscene and/or distractive pictures along major thoroughfare. Both the Department of Justice and the MMDA have filed position papers in support of the bill. The latter is pending with the House committee on public information.

Against the right of free expression, there are two main arguments advanced in support of the bill – the State’s right to prohibit obscenity and promote safety.  Obscenity is a complicated legal and moral topic. Defining it has always been a challenge so much so that US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart made a memorable quip in his concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964) where he remarked that “hard-core pornography” was hard to define, but that “I know it when I see it.”  Steward later regretted writing it saying “if I’ll be remembered at all I’ll be remembered for that particular phrase.” While we are not talking hard-core pornography here, there remains the issue of what pictures or photographs should we allow to be exhibited in our streets? Our traditional conservative values aside, there is the real danger of exposing minors to material they may not be ready to comprehend. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima suggests that the word “obscene” should be clarified in the context of billboard advertisements.  

The argument in respect of safety is less conclusive.  For sure, drivers can be distracted by these provocative ads. But as to whether this distraction leads to accidents has not been proven. Ramil Gutierrez of the Outdoor Billboards Advertising Association claims that unlike the use of cellphones or eating food while driving, there is no study linking traffic accidents to obscene billboards.

But let me bring up another issue – equal protection.  If we allow topless males to show their stuff, why should we not allow the fairer gender to do the same?  Or, since we disallow females from exposing their tops, then the same rule should also be applied to males. In other words, there should be consistency in application. 

But even if we adopt a more liberal approach towards this subject, we would no longer be vogue. Apparently, female toplessness has gone out of fashion in France. According to a recent Elle Magazine poll, less than 2% percent of French women under 35 plan to bare their breasts this summer. This is a far cry from the days of blond bombshell Brigitte Bardot where there was an annual pilgrimage of sun worshippers in semi-nudity that would descend on the French Riviera.

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Perspective: Ordinarily, any sports team which finishes with a one-win, four-loss record will not deserve a pat in the back. Unless you were the Gilas Pilipinas national team (or the UP fighting Maroons). In fairness to the former, it went up against taller and heftier players of “world-class” basketball powerhouses Croatia, Argentina, Greece and Puerto Rico. So it was not unexpected that they fell short of their goal to reach the semi-final round. In describing their performance, I am reminded of the lawyer joke: What would you call 1,000 lawyers being thrown and buried under the sea? Answer: A good start. A reason to hold a national bonfire perhaps?

If your commander asks you to hoist the white flag and surrender your weapons to the enemy, should you unquestionably follow his order? This was the dilemma faced by the Filipino peacekeepers who are helping monitor a 1974 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights. Their UN Commander ordered them to surrender allegedly because he wanted to safeguard the Fijian contingent taken hostage by the Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian militants. On the one hand, if you disobey your military superior and disrupt the chain of command, you are usually made the subject of court martial proceedings. On the other hand, if you believe that an order is illogical and will prejudice the cause, are you duty bound to obey? The UN Commander called them cowards (although I cannot see how engaging in a seven-hour firefight can be deemed an act of cowardice).   Back home, they have been feted for their daring escape and hailed as heroes. But all’s well that ends well since the 45 Fijian peacekeepers have since been released.  

The other paper front paged the passing on of former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, hailing him as a “courageous public servant.” The appropriateness of the description triggered an intense debate in social media. “Colorful public official” perhaps? In this instance, Shakespeare may have been wrong—“the good is not oft interred with their bones.”

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Priceless exhibit: Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has performed an invaluable service to the country by conducting extensive research in connection with the dispute over Scarborough Shoal. Sixty maps from 1636 to 1940 made by Chinese, Filipinos and foreigners consistently show Scarborough Shoal, whether named or unnamed, as part of the Philippines.  The maps also point out that China only claims Hainan Island as its southernmost territory. The exhibit is ongoing at the De La Salle University but may also be viewed online at the website of the Institute of Maritime and Ocean Affairs.   

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Greetings:  Birthday best wishes to Bataan 2nd District Rep. Enrique “Tet” Garcia, Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Rodolfo Ponferrada and soon-to-be lawyer Kyle Sy Krebs.  

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“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” 

– Winston Churchill

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Email: deanbautista@yahoo.com

 

BOTH THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE BRIGITTE BARDOT DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY DISTRICT REP FRENCH RIVIERA GILAS PILIPINAS GOLAN HEIGHTS SCARBOROUGH SHOAL
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