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Tuesday, 27 March, 2001, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Arroyo firm over sex film ban
President Arroyo with film stars Jolina Magdangal, Anne Curtis and Rica Paralejo
Some film stars supporting the ban met the president on Tuesday
Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has refused appeals to lift a controversial government ban on a film with sex scenes, but instead offered the film industry some tax cuts.


The freedom of expression, like the freedom of... the press, is not a licence to say or do anything offensive

President Arroyo
Mrs Arroyo, a devout Catholic, said it was the government's role to act as the morals police and protect Filipino families.

"Yes, I have watched it. It is a well made soft-core pornographic film. That's what I think about it," she said.


If you go out of Live Show titillated, you're sick because that's a very depressing movie

Nicanor Tiongson
Live Show - which was shown at last year's Berlin Film Festival - portrays the lives of poor people who are paid to have sex on stage in Manila's nightclubs.

Supporters of the film say it highlights the poverty which forces women into prostitution.

Protests

The ban has triggered a bitter debate over freedom of expression and the role of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, which pushed the government to suspend the already-released film.

Cardinal Sin
Cardinal Sin has played a powerful role in pollitics
On Monday, hundreds of actors, directors and activists protested the ban in Manila's streets, some baring their buttocks at police and other waving placards reading: "Yes to expression, No to suppression".

In an attempt to placate the film industry, Mrs Arroyo - who has been accused of buckling to Church pressure - announced the 30% amusement tax on the box office would be cut by half.

She also promised a crackdown on video pirates whose operations could kill the industry.

Resignation

The ban prompted the country's top film censor, Nicanor Tiongson, to resign last week in protest over what he described as "religious bigotry".

Nicanor Tiongson
Tiongson said he had to follow his conscience
He said the film had a "message" and should not be considered pornographic.

But his replacement, Alejandro Roces, 76, said that "art should uphold virtues and not glamorise vice," adding, "Do I want my daughter or my grandchildren to see this?"

A film critic and former member of the country's film board, Joanne Maglipan, has told the BBC that the church had become "drunk with power".

The church's political power was demonstrated earlier in the year, when it played a key role in helping topple the previous administration of President Joseph Estrada through a popular uprising.

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See also:

26 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines sex film protest
23 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines to review ban on sex film
30 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo pledges to 'crush' enemies
26 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo gets tough with new cabinet
12 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Church call for prayer crusade
14 Jun 99 | Asia-Pacific
Church condemns Geri's visit
11 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Cardinal Sin tells Estrada to quit
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