MANILA, Philippines ? The Supreme Court upheld the three-month suspension imposed by government censors on the television program ?Ang Dating Daan [The Old Way]? due to offensive remarks by its host, religious leader Eliseo Soriano.
Voting 11-4 vote, the high court, in a decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, said the suspension was not a prior restraint, but rather a ?form of permissible administrative sanction or subsequent punishment.?
The court also affirmed the power of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to impose such a suspension ?without running afoul of the free speech clause.?
The suspension order stemmed from a complaint filed by members of the Iglesia ni Cristo including minister Michael Sandoval, host of the TV show ?Ang Tamang Daan [The Right Way],? who said Soriano alluded to him with cuss words.
Among the offensive remarks Sandoval cited include: ?Gago ka talaga, Michael [You?re really stupid, Michael],? ?Masahol ka pa sa putang babae [You?re worse than a whore],? and ?Sobra ang kasinungalingan ng mga demonyong ito [These demons are lying too much].?
The high court said Soriano?s statements ?can be treated as obscene, at least with respect to the average child,? and cannot be considered as protected speech.
The court cited the time slot of Soriano?s show and the fact that it was rated ?G? of for general patronage made children more vulnerable to his statements.
The MTRCB initially slapped Soriano?s program with a 20-day suspension, which was later lengthened to a three-month suspension.
But the high court clarified that the suspension was limited only to the show not Soriano, as the MTRCB ?may not suspend television personalities for such would be beyond its jurisdiction.?
However, Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in a separate dissenting opinion, said that a single government action could be both a penalty and a prior restraint.
He said the three-month suspension acted as a restraint to Soriano?s future speech. He said that ?in the absence of proof and reason, he [Soriano] should not be penalized with a three-month suspension that works as a prior restraint on his speech.?
Also dissenting, Justice Antonio Carpio called the suspension ?an unconstitutional prior restraint on freedom of expression? which should not have been allowed.
He said prior restraint can be justified only if they was ?pornography, false or misleading advertisement, advocacy of imminent lawless action, and [or] danger to national security,? and ?obviously, what petitioner uttered does not fall under any of the four.?