I was somewhat perturbed when when I read former Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) head Manuel Morato's column Uncensored, in yesterday's edition of the People's Journal.
You see, I've always been an admirer of Manoling. I even voted for him for Senator (believe it or not). I don't always agree with him, but I admire the fact that he doesn't compromise on matters of morality and that he has always had a clear stand on issues. He doesn't flip-flop or adopt a view just because it's popular, unlike some other politicians. He has been that way from the beginning, and he's still that way, up to now.
On the negative side, I find myself flat out disagreeing with some of his opinions, simply for the very reason that they often reek of sanctimony and self-righteousness, as if he and he alone should be making such decisions and interpretations for the rest of us. Of course, that may or may not be the intention, but his opinions certainly have that effect at times.
A good example is his column in question. In his May 4, 2006 piece entitled To summarize, I agree with some his points. No, make that strongly agree. His views on the death penalty moratorium issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, charter change, and the apparent lack of morals among people in today's society are pretty spot on. However, when it comes to his take on the upcoming movie The Da Vinci Code, and the recently discovered lost Gospel of Judas, I find my myself shaking my head in strong disagreement.
I couldn't find a copy of his column online, so if you have a copy of yesterday's People's Journal, you can refer to the first two items in his column that I have quoted below. Please note that the following is exactly how the two topics in his column have been published. I initially thought of quoting a couple of snippets here and there, but to avoid putting the statements out of context, I have opted to quote the items in their entirety:
1. On The Da Vinci Code, the bottomline here is the law of the Republic which prohibits any film libelous or defamatory to the good name and reputation of any person, dead or alive, PD 1986 Section 3-C.
It is also prohibited, by law, to show movies that attack any race, creed or religion.
In short, we cannot allow any movie to be shown publicly that attacks and insults Mohammad, Buddha and more so, Christ, the Philippines being a Christian nation, the only one in Southeast Asia.
It is not a question of whether or not the viewers can take the move as a work of fiction. It is the law that says that we cannot allow such a movie to be shown. Period.
The Last Temptation of Christ is an earlier movie that attacks the divinity of Christ. The Da Vinci Code is a take-off from said movie, a continuation of some kind. That film was banned in many countries that are non-Christian such as Israel, Malaysia, New Guinea and many others including several States in the US. They all refused to show that movie in their theaters.
The so-called Da Vinci Code allegedly originated from painter Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th and 16th centuries, or over 1,500 years after the death 0f Christ- purely based on the word of mouth from one person to another for so many centuries after the death of Christ.
Si Jose Rizal nga namatay over 100 years lang, ang dami nang mali ang nasulat tungkol sa buhay niya.
2. On the so-called Gospel of Judas naman written 380 years after the death of Christ by the so-called Gnostics (manghuhula), di rin natin puwedeng paniwalaan dahil hindi naman si Judas ang sumulat noon subalit sinasabi na Gospel of Judas. Nagbigti at nagpakamatay si Judas right after traydurin niya si Hesukristo. Paano pa makakasultat ang isang patay?
Libel, according to Art. 353 of the Revised Penal Code, is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.
The elements of libel are: 1) imputation of a discreditable act or contion to another; 2) publication of the imputation; 3) identity of the person defamed; and 4) existence of malice (check out Punzi's blog-lecture on libel here).
This definition of libel as applied to P.D. 1986 simply cannot be used as a basis for prohibiting the exhibition of the The Da Vinci Code in local theaters.
Despite Mr. Morato's assertion of the immateriality of the fact that the film is a work of fiction, or of the public's ability to discern that it is indeed a work of fiction, it is, in fact, highly material. As a work of fiction, it does not present the events depicted therein as true. It is a fictional story, through and through. While there may be some historical basis for some background information in the plotlines, the important thing is that the movie (or the book of that matter) does not claim or present these events as true. That being the case, how can the film be libelous when it is missing one key ingredient, malice on the part of the author and filmmakers?
While The Last Temptation of Christ bears some similarity towards the precepts of The Da Vinci Code, the two are distinct works and tackle the issue of Christ's alleged marriage to Mary Magdalene in two totally different ways. In the former, the supposed relationship is averred to through an interlude, a deviation from the main story of Christ's crucifixion presented as a vision or fantasy sequence. It ends in the traditional way, with Christ dying as a means of atoning for our sins.
The Da Vinci Code is not a continuation per se. It explores the historical possibility that Christ indeed married Mary Magdalene and that their descendants still exist to the present day, that Mary Magdalene herself is the "Holy Grail". And this exploration is set forth in a fictional contemporary suspense thriller, a roller coaster of a story which eventually ends maintaining the status quo.
I wonder if Manuel Morato actually saw or read both movies/books?
And, considering the possibility, remote or not, that Jesus Christ was indeed married, and had children...does this diminish his divinity by even an iota? Honestly, I don't think so. But that's just me.
The so-called Da Vinci Code allegedly originated from painter Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th and 16th centuries, or over 1,500 years after the death of Christ- purely based on the word of mouth from one person to another for so many centuries after the death of Christ.
He oversimplifies to the point of absurdity.
There is no "Da Vinci Code", so to speak, which has been passed on through word of mouth since the death of Christ. The idea of symbolism, a "code", being hidden in Da Vinci's works is a fairly modern idea, which while intriguing and interesting, has no clear historical basis.
And referring to Leonardo Da Vinci as a "painter" is as crude a reference as referring to Thomas Edison as an "electrician" or Albert Einstein as a "university teacher".
As for his take on the Gospel of Judas, I find his Filipino translation of gnostics as manghuhula ridiculous. A manghuhula is a fortune-teller. While gnostics are indeed mystics, to consider them, dismiss them as mere fortune-tellers is highly inaccurate. At the very least, gnostics are deep thinkers, devoted to the pursuit of knowledge.
di rin natin puwedeng paniwalaan dahil hindi naman si Judas ang sumulat noon subalit sinasabi na Gospel of Judas. Nagbigti at nagpakamatay si Judas right after traydurin niya si Hesukristo. Paano pa makakasultat ang isang patay?
It may surprise Mr. Morato to know that the authorship of the four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is largely unknown. While Church tradition has generally attributed the authorship of these gospels to the apostles they were named after, there is no historical record to actually validate this. Scholars generally date the writing of the gospels to anywhere from 30 to 70 years after the death of Jesus Christ. As such, it is even entirely possible that the gospels could have been written after the lifetimes of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
To dismiss the authenticity of the Gospel of Judas simply because Judas Iscariot is supposedly dead at the time it was written seems overly convenient, considering that this premise could easily be applied to the four canonical gospels as well.
I'll leave it to the theology experts and biblical historians to come up with the best possible explanation for all of these.
I'm definitely not a theology expert, nor a biblical historian, but neither is Mr. Morato, at least, to the best of my knowledge.
At the very least, we should be careful making blanket dismissive statements such as the ones he made. In fairness, no one really knows the truth. He could easily be right as he could be wrong. The same goes for me and everyone else. We really don't know. We can only make educated guesses.
The bottomline? We should keep an open mind, and we should have faith.
And for the nth time, The Da Vinci Code is just a novel/movie!
And if he ever gets to read this entry, with all due respect sir, I disagree. :-)