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Philippines censor vows stern rule

MANILA, Philippines -- On the day Hollywood awarded its Oscars, the new Philippines chief censor took office as sex-movie stars led thousands in protesting the banning of a film.

Art critic, fiction writer and former education minister Alejandro Roces was hand-picked by the government for the censor's job after his predecessor resigned over the banning of a sexually graphic film.

Roces has vowed to rule with a strict hand when classifying films and deeming what is acceptable for Filipino audiences.

"My plan is . . . to make movies an instrument for nation building," Roces said after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed him chairman of the Movie and Television Review Classification Board.

The movie at the center of the national furore, "Live Show", depicts the lives of young men and women who fornicate on stage at Manila's nightclubs in exchange for money.

The movie was exhibited at the Berlin Film Festival last year and has also toured other foreign venues following rave reviews from movie critics.

Its ban last week forced the resignation of chief censor Nicanor Tiongson, who accused the church and Arroyo of religious bigotry.

Buxom stars of Philippine sex movies led 2,000 entertainment industry workers Monday in the first major protest against Arroyo's policies.

The protesters, denouncing what they called suppression of artistic freedom, marched to the presidential palace hours after Roces took office.

"We're just trying to show what is happening in our society," actress Klaudia Koronel said referring to her banned film.

Koronel, a carpenter's daughter in real life, has become nationally popular after appearing in films showing nudity.

Wearing a body-hugging shirt, Koronel was joined in the protest by directors and actresses who have appeared in steamy movies.

But Roces remained unmoved by the opposition to his more conservative views.

"If you see 'Live Show' . . . you will be ashamed of being a Filipino," Roces said of the controversial film.

Pornography targeted

The banning of "Live Show" has provoked fierce protests from the film industry, which accused Arroyo of buckling under pressure from Manila Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin, the top prelate in the largely Roman Catholic nation.

The film had packed cinemas until Arroyo axed it last week.

Arroyo came under fire for banning a movie which her critics said she had not even seen.

"It pains me to know that (other countries) have seen 'Live Show' but in my country, my own people cannot see it," the film's director Jose Javier Reyes said.

"We are returning to the Dark Ages," director Joel Lamangan said.

The presidential palace said an appeals committee, which included representatives of Arroyo and the movie industry, was scheduled to screen the film later Monday.

Palace press aides said they had no information that Arroyo herself would see the film.

Besides stamping out pornography in local movies, Roces, 76, said he would also work for the passage of a law that would make production of movies with blatant sexual scenes a criminal offence.

He said he was not against depicting sex in movies but it depended on "how it is shown."

"Do I want my daughter or my grandchildren to see this? What good will it do them?" he said of "Live Show."

Reuters contributed to this report.

Philippines Department of Culture

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