MANILA, Philippines?The Supreme Court upheld a three-month suspension imposed on the religious television program, ?Ang Dating Daan,? back in 2004 for the use of offensive and obscene language by its evangelist-host Eliseo ?Brother Eli? Soriano.
In a full court decision issued on March 15, the high tribunal ruled with finality against Soriano's motion for reconsideration, affirming its original ruling last April 29, 2009 in favor of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB)'s disciplinary action against Ang Dating Daan.
Voting 11-4, the Supreme Court rejected Soriano's argument that the suspension imposed by the MTRCB constituted ?prior restraint? on the media and that his language during the show's August 10, 2004 broadcast was not obscene and offensive.
The high court reminded Soriano that ?the medium he used to make his statements was a television broadcast which is accessible to children of virtually all ages.?
?As already laid down in the decision subject of this recourse, the interest of the government in protecting children who may be subjected to petitioner?s invectives must have precedence over his desire to air publicly his dirty laundry,? the court went on, pointing out that Soriano's use of vulgar language was not appropriate for a program with a ?G? or for general audience rating.
The high court also rejected Soriano's claim that the court should stay out of cases of conflict between religious groups.
It said even religious programs were covered by the MTRCB's regulatory power.
The Supreme Court said the exercise of religious freedom could be regulated by the state ?when it will bring about the clear and present danger of some substantive evil which the state is duty bound to prevent.?
The MTRCB took action against Ang Dating Daan based on a complaint filed by the religious group Iglesia ni Cristo led by Michael Sandoval, INC minister and host of television program, ?Ang Tamang Daan.?
Sandoval complained that Soriano slandered him in Ang Dating Daan by calling him names.
Soriano countered that the INC implied in their show that he was asking for an extravagantly huge amount of contributions.
Those who concurred with the decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. were Associate Justices Renato Corona, Antonio Nachura, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano Del Castillo, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza.
Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Conchita Carpio-Morales and Roberto Abad dissented.
In his separate opinion, Carpio insisted that the show's suspension ?indiscriminately infringes upon free speech.? Citing a landmark case in the United States, he said while Soriano?s utterances might be indecent he still enjoyed the constitutional protection for free speech.