Senator Robin Padilla made a brief but impassioned manifestation calling on the ban of Gerard Butler’s latest action film Plane. In particular, the neophyte legislator decried the fictional depiction of the Philippines, “Alam niyo po, napakasakit lang po. Dito sa kanilang pelikula, sinasabi ang ating awtoridad ay naduwag na sa mga rebelde, hindi na po sila umaaksyon at sinabi pa dito, ‘they went down somewhere in the Jolo island cluster. It’s run by separatists and militias. The Filipino armies were not there anymore.’”
Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa concurred with Padilla and expressed his disgust at the violence. The former police chief, who spearheaded the bloody drug war of the previous administration, remarked, “It really painted a bad image sa ating bansa dahil nga Davao, wala kang makitang ganoong klaseng lugar na may rebelde na ganoon katindi na namumugot ng ulo without apparent reason, pinupugutan ng ulo ang mga foreigner.”
Sympathizing with his heartbroken colleagues, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri suggested the passage of a resolution condemning the film. “Alam niyo po, iba na ang Mindanao—napakatahimik. Kaya inis na inis ako ‘pag pinapakita nila. Ang ganda-ganda pa naman ng Jolo, ng Sulu, ng Basilan, ng Tawi-Tawi. It’s a magical place. Kaya nang ipinalabas ‘yan, ayaw ko talagang panoorin ‘yan kasi baka matamaan ako ng high blood [pressure],” he added.
Zubiri also indicated he has shown the trailer of Plane to the president and promptly told him to do something about it. Concerns are high that a passable B-movie actioner could gut tourism, “Hindi ganito ang Pilipinas ngayon at napakabait ng Pilipino whether Muslim man o Kristiyano.”
MTRCB Chairperson Diorella Sotto committed to “re-evaluate the film in view of the senators’ concerns and will take all necessary measures if found to be, in any way, injurious to the prestige of the Philippines or its people.” The classification board approved the theatrical release of Plane last month with a favorable PG rating.
Thankfully, the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines Inc. (DGPI) injected sense into the discourse and opposed calls for an outright film ban. In an official statement, the premiere organization of Filipino film directors emphasized: “A cure much worse than the illness itself, injurious to free expression and sets a precedent for films to be held hostage by imagined slights to our country’s reputation.”
The statement continues, “If the state can tolerate free expression for trolls, fake news, and historical revisionism without worrying about their effect on the country’s prestige, then the state can do the same for a work that members of the foreign press have regarded as mindless B-movie entertainment rather than a reliable commentary on our country’s affairs.”
There is little to unpack in this ongoing non-issue after the Director’s Guild has spelled out the main problem: The state has ignored and tolerated disinformation and historical distortions in all forms of media. Yet, for some reason, an action film that is just notches above direct-to-video quality is considered a step too far.
Our nation will benefit from more legislative introspection and less parliamentary pearl-clutching. Our tourism sector lacks a comprehensive program and suffers from inconsistent promotional efforts, poor infrastructure, and traffic congestion. Gerard Butler is the least of its problems.
Further, there are more important issues and legislative matters that require the attention of our senators. For instance, Senate Bill No. 28, or The Revival of the Philippine Movie Industry Act of 2022, languishes at the committee level. Pretty sure our actor-turned-legislators will work hard to push for its passage.
So far, no resolution has been filed condemning Plane. Several lawmakers, however, filed one in defense of the previous president against any “investigation or prosecution by the International Criminal Court.” One should understand that a standard action film about a pilot and a homicide suspect teaming up to save a group of passengers from foreign-accented “Filipino terrorists” damages our national reputation no more than a brutal state-sponsored drug war that has caught the attention of the ICC.
Jean-François Richet’s Plane made its theatrical run last month, January 11th, to a relatively quiet reception, with an average rating of 3.0 over 5.0 stars. Lionsgate has also announced a sequel, titled Ship, topbilled by Michael Colter.