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Palace backs MTRCB order vs Netflix

/ 04:27 AM November 03, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang backs the decision of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to order Netflix to take down episodes of a political drama streaming on its platform, but human rights lawyer Theodore Te does not agree.

Reacting to news about the pullout of relevant episodes of “Pine Gap,” Te took to Twitter on Tuesday and pointed out that the drama series was “a work of fiction and not a documentary.”

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He said Netflix should have included a disclaimer explaining that the scenes showing China’s “nine-dash line” map that it uses as basis for its sweeping claim to the South China Sea were fictional.

China’s nine-dash line claim was invalidated in 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, on a challenge lodged by the Philippines.

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Violation of sovereignty

“The Netflix action on ‘Pine Gap,’ while morally satisfying, is IMO (in my opinion) dangerous,” said Te, a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group and a former spokesperson of the Supreme Court.

“The misleading portion on the nine-dash line could have been addressed by adding a mandatory explanation appearing on screen during those scenes,” he said.

In issuing its order to Netflix, the MTRCB said the episodes of “Pine Gap” that showed the map of China violated Philippine sovereignty.

The episodes were “based on very inaccurate myth and scope of the Chinese territory,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Roque added that the MTRCB was under the Office of the President, and that its move was based on the request of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) not to show the episodes in the country.

Asked by the Inquirer to expound on his tweet, Te said it was “always problematic” whenever the government was able to “require an artist or writer to change content.”

“The series was a work of fiction, not passing off as fact,” he said in a Viber message. “[There are] other ways of addressing [the matter] … as I indicated in my tweet.”

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On Monday, the DFA announced in a statement that it had lodged a complaint at the MTRCB over the offending episodes. It said the board decided on Sept. 28 on “the immediate pullout” of the episodes by Netflix.

The MTRCB conducted “a thorough review” and eventually ruled that “certain episodes of ‘Pine Gap’ are unfit for public exhibition,” the DFA said.

‘Abominable’

A similar incident occurred in October 2019, when “Abominable” sparked a regional backlash involving the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The animated film, a joint production of Dreamworks and China’s Pearl Studio, tells the story of a Chinese teenager helping a yeti return to his home, and shows a chart featuring China’s nine-dash line.

Vietnam announced its revocation of the movie’s license on Oct. 14, 2019, effectively pulling it from cinemas.

The following week, film distributor United International Pictures said “Abominable” would not be released in Malaysia. It said the film’s producers had declined to meet a requirement of the board of censors to cut the scene showing the nine-dash line.

In the Philippines, the MTRCB announced in a statement that “Abominable” was taken down on Oct. 15, 2019. The film opened in movie theaters earlier in October, but the adverse reaction did not surface until later.

—REPORTS FROM MARLON RAMOS, LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND INQUIRER RESEARCH
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TAGS: MTRCB, Netflix, Pine Gap, Theodore Te
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