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In the Philippines, censorship involves the control of certain information.


Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. According to the Constitution, under Article XVI, Section 10, the State is obligated to "provide the policy environment for … the balanced flow of information into, out of, and across the country, in accordance with a policy that respects the freedom of speech and of the press." The Constitution also guarantees freedom of the press under Article III, Section 4.[1] The Office of the President is responsible for managing the government's policy toward the press.

The Philippines is also a signatory to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which aims to protect freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.[2]

Although independent observers credit the government with respecting freedom of the press in general, the government has been criticized for failing to investigate thoroughly summary killings of journalists and for subjecting journalists to harassment and surveillance.[3] In addition to killings, journalists in the Philippines have been victims of various forms of threats and attacks, including verbal assault and intimidation, physical assault, and libel charges. Journalists have also been blacklisted from covering public events.[4]


Spanish colonial period

Although considered widespread by various American and Filipino scholars, the level of censorship varied depending on the sitting Governor General.[5]: 396  Noted publications banned by the colonial authorities were the Noli Me Tángere and El filibusterismo novels of José Rizal which were critical of the Spanish colonial government and the church.

From 1857 to 1883, the Spanish largely regulated the press in the Philippines through the Rules of Printing Matters (Reglamento de Asuntos de Imprenta) under which newspapers were required to obtain a license from the government. This was followed by the Printing Order or Gullón (De policía de imprenta o Gullón) in 1883 by the Liberal Spanish government at the time which led to the emergence of multiple Philippines newspapers until the end of the Spanish colonial period.[5]: 396, 398–401 

American colonial period

The United States administration introduced laws against sedition and libel in the Philippines in 1901 through the Sedition Act and the Criminal Libel Act. This has led to the closure of El Renacimiento which openly advocated for Philippine independence, advocated the usage of Spanish as an official language, and was critical of Governor General William Howard Taft's policies in 1908.[5]: 397 

The Board of Censorship for Moving Pictures (BCMP) was formed on November 27, 1929, through Commonwealth Act No. 3852. By 1930, the first board of the BCMP reviewed 1,249 films for public exhibition, six of which were allowed only with cuts, and two were banned. The BCMP became the Board of Review for Moving Pictures (BRMP) in 1936.[6]

World War II

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, the Japanese banned all publications not for the Japanese audience, save for Manila Tribune, Taliba, and La Vanguardia. Publications by these local newspapers were heavily censored by the Imperial Japanese Army. However underground publications were accessible to Filipinos during this period which allowed the distribution of information not censored by the Japanese.[7]

Post-Commonwealth period

Post-war state censorship of print media is limited as the press functioned as a watchdog of the government. During this period, the Philippine press is known to be the “freest in Asia”.[7] The Board of Review for Moving Pictures (BRMP) regulated cinema from the end of the war until 1961. The BRMP was reorganized as the Board of Censors of Motion Pictures (BCMP) during the administration of President Carlos P. Garcia. BCMP was constituted through Republic Act No. 3060 on June 17, 1961, and was placed under the Office of the President.[6]

Martial Law period

Main article: Journalism during the Marcos dictatorship

As part of the imposition of Martial Law during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 until the 1980s, the press was heavily regulated and censored. All publications including from foreign news outfits had to be approved by the Department of Public Information. Society news, editorial commentary, and content critical to the Philippine government were among those banned.[8] The government seized control of privately owned print and broadcast media outfits. Only Daily Express and Bulletin Today (Manila Bulletin) were allowed to resume operations among those publications that existed prior to Martial Law.[7] These newspapers, along with the Times Journal,[7] were owned by Marcos cronies and came to be known as the "crony press" and served as mouthpieces for the dictatorship.[9] Books such as Primitivo Mijares' The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and Carmen Navarro Pedrosa's The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos were also banned.

The regulations encouraged self-censorship by the press, which were traditionally adversarial towards the government. In the 1980s, an "alternative press" unsanctioned by the government emerged. Among these publications that form part of the alternative press were Jose Burgos' WE Forum and Pahayagang Malaya; Veritas, edited by Felix Bautista and Melinda de Jesus; Raul and Leticia Locsin's Business Day (present-day Business World); Eugenia Apostol and Leticia Magsanoc's Inquirer and Mr. and Ms. Magazine. The phenomenon of samizdat or xerox journalism also proliferated, which involved the dissemination of news clippings, usually from publications abroad that were not checked by the government's censors. These often proliferated through Filipino journalists working for foreign news outfits.[7]

Foreign journalists critical of the regime were often expelled or had their visas denied or revoked. Marcos accused Arnold Zeitlin of the Associated Press of "malicious and false reporting" during his coverage of the fighting between the government forces and Muslim Filipino separatists in Jolo, Sulu. Zeitlin was expelled from the Philippines in 1976.[10] A year later, the government denied the visa application of Bernard Wideman, a news correspondent of The Washington Post and Far Eastern Economic Review. Wideman covered Marcos' seizure of privately-owned companies such as Philippine Airlines and Philippine Cellophane Film Corporation.[11][12] Wideman's expulsion was eventually reversed by the Immigration Commission.[13]

Like print and broadcast media, film was also heavily regulated during the Martial Law period. Letter of Instruction no. 13 issued on September 29, 1972, prohibited films that incite subversion and rebellion, films that glorify criminals, films that show the use of prohibited drugs, and films that undermine people’s confidence in the government. It also banned films that are contrary to the spirit of Proclamation 1081.[14] President Marcos reorganized the Board of Censors of Motion Pictures as the Board of Review for Motion Pictures and Television (BRMPT) on November 13, 1981, through Executive Order No. 745.[6] He also increased the members of the board through Executive Order 757.[15] The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) replaced BRMPT[6] on October 5, 1985, through Presidential Decree No. 1986. It was tasked to regulate and classify media, including motion picture and television programs.[16]

Contemporary period (1986–present)

With the advent of the internet in the Philippines, there was debate regarding the necessity of censorship in the 1990s to block cyber pornography in response to reports of Filipinos being prostituted through online means. The issue reached the Senate at the time with Senators Blas Ople and Orlando S. Mercado calling for a hearing on the matter in 1995, and Senator Gregorio Honasan filing a bill as a bid to address the matter.[17]

In 2000, the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines through the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) launched cbcpNet, its own internet service provider (ISP) which filters out content depicting pornography, homosexuality, violence and devil worship, for its subscribers. This venture failed due to a CBCP partner fleeing the Philippines which led to debt and legal issues. CBCP World, was introduced in 2002, the CBCP's second attempt to set up its own ISP which also offered filtered online access like its predecessor.[18][19][20]

The passing of the Cybercrime Prevention Act in 2012, was a subject of concern by human rights activists especially its provisions on cyberlibel.[21][22] The law was challenged and the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the original author of libelous content is only liable against the law saying that the act of posting libelous content is not a crime. The court also iterated that access to websites can't be restricted by the Department of Justice without a prior court order and that the government could not monitor individuals in "real time" without the same.[21]

In September 2020, the MTRCB proposed the regulation of content distributed through online streaming services including Netflix believing that these content falls under their mandate to regulate and classify "all forms" of motion picture. Such plans raised concerns over censorship.[23]

By medium

Television and film

See also: List of films banned in the Philippines

Further information: Mass media in the Philippines and Television in the Philippines

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board is responsible for rating television programs and films aired in the Philippines. The government agency can classify a film or television program an X rating, effectively banning the work from public screening. The MTRCB is, however, criticized for its views on what constitutes obscenity, and is also accused of giving the X rating to materials for political reasons such as Ora Pro Nobis by Lino Brocka, which gained controversy for its allegations of continued human rights violations in the Philippines after the 1986 EDSA revolution.[24]

Free-to-air television programs in the Philippines are given ratings by the MTRCB depending on content: G (general patronage), PG (parental guidance) and SPG (strong parental guidance) except news and sports programming and commercials (excluding political ones during the campaign season, as these are regulated by the Commission on Elections. Any program assigned an MTRCB rating must carry a full-screen advisory at the beginning of each broadcast and a digital on-screen graphic at the lower right of the upper left of the screen which must be turned on at the beginning of each program or after a commercial break, and turned off at the end of each program or before each commercial break. Programs with an SPG rating, however, must show the rating advisory twice, at the beginning of each program and after the commercial break at the middle of the program, and carry an on-screen graphic of the rating with content qualifiers for themes, language, violence, sex, horror and drug use as applicable in the program.

Most free-to-air television broadcasters censor out nudity, blood and gore, cadavers, scenes of weapons pointed at people and illegal drugs, usually by blurring, graying out or cutting footage. Appearance of brand names are also tightly regulated by broadcasters to avoid unintentional product placement and accusations of undisclosed promotion; this include blurring footage or avoiding mentions of the brand in news reporting.[citation needed] The Philippine National Police restricts release of information related to victims and suspects of crimes, to protect privacy rights or uphold court orders.[25][26] The middle finger gesture is generally blurred out (most notably in the 2016 attack ad against Rodrigo Duterte paid for by Antonio Trillanes). Profanity in either English or Filipino are routinely bleeped in free-to-air TV.

Films released in the Philippines are given any of the five content ratings by the MTRCB: G (general patronage), PG (parental guidance), R-13 (restricted 13) R-16 (restricted 16), and R-18 (restricted 18). The MTRCB may also assign an X rating to a film, usually for pornography or extreme graphic violence, banning it from being released in the Philippines; possession of such films is considered a criminal offense.

Print media

Books, newspapers, and magazines have been subject to censorship in the Philippines. The governor general suppressed Diario de Manila for allegedly inciting Filipinos to rebel against the Spanish colonial government.[7]


A 2020 notice by the National Telecommunications Commission informing the user that it has blocked access to Pornhub.
A 2024 notice that appears when attempting to access censored sites in the Philippines.

The Freedom on the Net 2013 by the Freedom House ranked the Philippines 10th out of 60 countries. It said that it did not receive reports that officials are pressuring bloggers or online journalists to delete content deemed critical to the authorities. However, it said that "many news websites are online versions of traditional media which self-censor due to the level of violence against journalists in the Philippines".[27]

It also said that "The government does not require the registration of user information prior to logging online or subscribing to internet and mobile phone services, especially since prepaid services are widely available, even in small neighborhood stores." The same report also stated that the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 negatively affected the state of internet freedom of the country. It has also noted that the internet penetration of the country remains low which it attributes to PLDT's "de facto monopoly" and lack of infrastructure and bureaucratic government regulation. The study says that the monopoly resulted to high broadband subscription fees.[27]

A study released in March 2014 by United States-based Pew Research Center stated that most Filipinos found access to the internet without censorship important or somewhat important. A total of 35% of respondents reported that they found internet access without censorship "very important", 38% "somewhat important", 18% "not too important", and 6% "not important", while the rest reported that they did not know or refused to answer.[28]

In 2017, a large number of pornographic websites, including Pornhub, Xhamster, and RedTube, were blocked under suspicion of hosting child pornography.[29][30]

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued an order in June 2022 for internet service providers to block access to 26 websites that were allegedly "affiliated to and are supporting" the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army, and the National Democratic Front, including the media outlet Bulatlat.[31] A Quezon City court issued an injunction in August 2022 ordering the NTC to unblock Bulatlat's website, citing the news website's rights to be protected by the constitutional provision on freedom of speech and of the press.[32]

Video games

Main article: Video gaming in the Philippines

No video games are officially banned in the Philippines, but video games were officially banned from 1981 to 1986[33] and later Letter of Instruction No. 1176 s. 81[34] following a moral panic over its perceived effects on the youth.

The Philippines also does not have its own video game content rating system, but most video games sold by in-store retailers in the Philippines carry Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings.

See also


  1. ^ "On Freedom of the Press and the Rule of Law". UP College of Law. May 6, 2020. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  2. ^ Lalu, Gabriel Pabico (May 21, 2020). "Int'l body tells Duterte, NTC: PH a signatory of UN press freedom pact". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  3. ^ "Philippines: Freedom in the World 2021 Country Report". Freedom House. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  4. ^ De Jesus, Melinda (May 5, 2021). "2021 State of Press Freedom in the Philippines". Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Cano, Glòria (December 2011). "Filipino Press between Two Empires: El Renacimiento, a Newspaper with Too Much Alma Filipina" (PDF). Southeast Asian Studies. 49 (3).
  6. ^ a b c d Yuson, Alfred A. (October 11, 2020). "MTRCB turns 30". The Philippine Star. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Tuazon, Ramon. "The Print Media: A Tradition of Freedom". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Archived from the original on November 10, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  8. ^ "Manila Imposes Strict Censorship on News Media (Published 1972)". The New York Times. September 29, 1972. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  9. ^ Olea, Ronalyn V. (September 23, 2020). "How the mosquito press fought the disinformation under Marcos*". Bulatlat. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  10. ^ "MANILA ACCUSES A.U.S. NEVISMAY". The New York Times. March 1, 1974. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  11. ^ Mathews, Jay; Wideman, Bernard (January 18, 1978). "Marcos Orders Seizure of Wealthy Friends Companies". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  12. ^ Mathews, Jay; Wideman, Bernard (April 23, 1978). "Marcos Seizes Airline That Billed Wife". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  13. ^ "Philippine Immigration Chief Bars Expulsion of American Reporter". The New York Times. June 22, 1977. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  14. ^ "Letter of Instruction No. 13, s. 1972 | GOVPH". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. Archived from the original on March 18, 2022. Retrieved March 18, 2022.
  15. ^ "Executive Order No. 757, s. 1981 | GOVPH". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved March 18, 2022.
  16. ^ "Did You Know: MTRCB was created on Oct. 5, 1985". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Inquirer Research. October 5, 2018. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  17. ^ Paraz, Miguel. "Developing a Viable Framework for Commercial Internet Operations in the Asia-Pacific Region: The Philippine Experience". Internet Society. IPhil Communications. Archived from the original on January 3, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  18. ^ McFarland, Sofia (March 18, 2000). "For Filipinos Lacking Internet Access, Catholic Church Promises Salvation". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  19. ^ Araneta, Sandy (January 25, 2000). "Church offers access to `wholesome' Internet". The Philippine Star. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  20. ^ "Founders Of Catholic Internet Provider Deny Mismanagement Charges". UCA News. March 10, 2008. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  21. ^ a b York, Jillian; Carlson, Kimberly (April 3, 2014). "Philippines: Inching Toward Censorship". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  22. ^ "Philippine cybercrime law takes effect amid protests". BBC News. October 3, 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  23. ^ Mendiola, Ritchel (September 9, 2020). "No plans to censor Netflix in PH – MTRCB —". Asian Journal News. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  24. ^ Teodoro, Luis (May 14, 2012). "Censorship in disguise". In Medias Res. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  25. ^ "Revised Media Relations Policy" (PDF). Philippine National Police. Retrieved December 18, 2023.
  26. ^ "PNP to limit info released to media". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved December 18, 2023.
  27. ^ a b Malig, Jojo (October 4, 2013). "Internet freedom costly for Filipinos, study says". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  28. ^ "Should gov't censor Internet access?". MoneyPolitics. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Archived from the original on October 9, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  29. ^ Remitio, Rex (January 16, 2017). "Gov't blocks major porn websites". CNN Philippines. Archived from the original on May 26, 2021. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  30. ^ Bueza, Michael (January 14, 2017). "Some porn sites blocked in PH". Rappler. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  31. ^ "Bulatlat says NTC order blocking website is illegal". BusinessWorld. July 18, 2022. Retrieved August 29, 2022.
  32. ^ Bolledo, Jairo (August 17, 2022). "Bulatlat's site now accessible after it asked court to hold NTC in contempt". Rappler. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  33. ^ "P.D. No. 519". Retrieved November 19, 2022.
  34. ^ "Letter of Instruction No. 1176, s. 1981 | GOVPH". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved November 19, 2022.