Let us visit the 2007 Supreme Court case, namely, Federico Toto Natividad vs. MTRCB where Armida Siguion-Reyna is one of the characters in the case who played the role of the MTRCB Chairperson.

Here’s the story:

Remembering the Kidnapping-Murder-Rape Case of Chiong Sisters

Two sisters, Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong of Cebu, were kidnapped, raped and killed on July 16, 1997. The eight accused, some scions of prominent Cebu families, have been convicted by the Cebu City Regional Trial Court (RTC), save for one, who turned state witness. The seven convicted were each sentenced to two counts of reclusion perpetua. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the penalties imposed by the trial court were affirmed with modifications in a Decision dated February 3, 2004. The accused files motion for reconsideration but was denied.

The Butakal (Sugapa Sa Laman) Movie

On August 25, 1999, while the appeal of the accused was pending in the Supreme Court, Federico Toto Natividad, a movie producer and director, for and on behalf of the movie outfit Venus Films, filed with the MTRCB an application for a permit to exhibit Butakal, the movie apparently based on the true story of the kidnapping and murder case of Chiong sisters.

The MTRCB was then headed by Armida P.E. Siguion-Reyna.

The MTRCB gave the movie an R-Strictly for Adults rating and issued its permit on August 27, 1999. 

The movie was then advertised in the major dailies and scheduled for public viewing starting September 8, 1999 in several movie houses in Metro Manila and in Cebu City.

On September 1, 1999, the spouses Dionisio and Thelma Chiong, and Thelmas sister, Marichu Jimenea (Chiongs), convinced that the movie was a depiction of the sisters plight, wrote MTRCB requesting the board to disapprove the showing of the film. They claimed that the misrepresentations were aggravated by the purely commercial motive of the producers. The Chiongs also said that the case upon which Butakal was based was still pending before the Supreme Court and the showing of the film was sub judice.

Siguion-Reyna informed the Chiongs that the MTRCB stood by its previous approval of the movie and only a restraining order from the proper court would stop its public exhibition. This prompted the Chiongs to file with the RTC a petition for injunction with damages with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Natividad and the MTRCB. 

On September 27, 1999, Natividad received a letter from the MTRCB informing him that the Office of the President (OP) had directed Chairperson Armida                Siguion-Reyna to designate a Committee of Board Members to undertake a second review and to determine if there was a basis for allegations that the film contains scenes that were libelous or defamatory to the good name and reputation of the Chiong sisters and their relative.

The Board recalled the Permit to Exhibit and directed Natividad to submit his film for a second review.

In response to the MTRCBs letter, Natividad filed a manifestation with the MTRCB informing the board that he was not inclined to submit his film for a second review because the decision of the first review committee was final. 

The Chiongs filed with the MTRCB an administrative complaint against Natividad asking the MTRCB to prohibit the exhibition of Butakal or any portion of the film in all forms or venues in the Philippines and abroad. The Chiongs also asked that all copies of the movie be surrendered to the MTRCB and destroyed.

Natividad, in their Answer interposed, among others that the complainants committed forum shopping (since the petition for injunction is still pending before the RTC) and the earlier decision of the MTRCB granting a permit to exhibit Butakal had become final and executory.

On March 20, 2000, the MTRCB affirmed its earlier order of September 27, 1999 for the recall of its permit.

After the surrender of the master copy of Butakal,Natividad later requested that the MTRCB release the master copy. The MTRCB refused explaining that the video tape of Butakal had to remain with the MTRCB until and after the administrative case filed by the Chiongs is terminated because the video tape was material evidence in the administrative case.

Aggrieved, on May 12, 2000, Natividad filed a special civil action for certiorari and mandamus in the Court of Appeals.

The petition was denied by the CA.

When elevated to the Supreme Court, it ruled that the MTRCB committed an error when it confiscated the VHS copy of the film longer than 20 days.

Section 7, Rule VIII of the MTRCB Rules of Procedure in the Conduct of Hearings for the Violations of PD 1986 provides:

x x x x

SEC. 7. Preventive Seizure, Suspension, or Closure In the interest of the public and on finding of probable cause, the Chairman may order, pending hearing and final disposition of the case, the preventive seizure of offending motion pictures and related publicity materials, and/or suspension of the permit or permits involved, and/or closure of the erring moviehouse, television network, cable TV station, or establishment. The Chairman may also order the temporary dismantling or tearing down of public signs and billboards that are in violation of Presidential Decree No. 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. Temporary orders thus issued shall not exceed more than twenty (20) days from the date of issuance. 

The Supreme Court said that the above provisions make it clear that the MTRCB cannot preventively seize the master copy more than 20 days. Thus, the MTRCB erred when it seized and retained the master copy of Butakal for more than 20 days. (Source: FEDERICO TOTO NATIVIDAD vs. MOVIE AND TELEVISION REVIEW AND CLASSIFICATION BOARD  (MTRCB), represented by its Chairperson MA. CONSOLIZA T. LAGUARDIA; Spouses THELMA J. CHIONG and DIONISIO F. CHIONG and MARICHU S. JIMENELand MARICHU S. JIMENEADecember 13, 2007)

**P.S. At age 88, Philippine entertainment icon, Armida P.E. Siguion-Reyna, passes away due to cancer on February 11, 2019.

Photo Credit: Business World