COTABATO CITY, Philippines – While millions of Muslims in other parts of the world are divided between violent and moderate protest actions against an anti-Islam film by an American producer, their counterparts in the Philippines – Asia’s lone Catholic nation – are united in their appeal for an authoritative intervention.[box type=”default” size=”large”] Say President’s position smacks of ‘double standard’ [/box]As the protests turned into violence in other countries, that resulted in, among others, the killing of an American envoy in Libya, Lanao del Norte Representative Pangalian Balindong and Sulu Representative Tupay Loong, together with many Filipino-Muslim professionals, called for a ban on the showing in the country of the film entitled the “Innocence of Muslims.”
Balindong, a local stalwart of the ruling Liberal Party, and his co-proponents were discouraged when President Aquino announced that he could not block the film showing in the country for fear of violating the constitutional mandate on “freedom of expression.”
President Aquino’s view seemed to have prompted lawyer Harry Roque to push through with the recent showing of the “Innocence of Muslims” to his students at the University of the Philippines (UP) in defiance of the UP administration’s ban on the sensitive material.
Muslim Filipinos, who took to the streets in protest of the film, have directed their indignation at the President and Roque. They consider Roque as a constitutional lawyer and human rights advocate.
Through the social media networks, they lamented President Aquino’s stand as a “double standard,” citing his earlier order for the closure of an exhibit in the Cultural Center of the Philippines for depicting allegedly malicious traits of Jesus Christ.
“Mr. President, why is it that when tens of thousands of Muslim Bangsamoro people appealed to you to block the anti-Islam film in the Philippines – you are quick to say that you cannot do so because there is no precedent and that you considered that film as an exercise of ‘freedom of expression’ based on a constitution guarantee?” Drieza Al-Moro asked in his facebook account.
A group of 30 students from the University of Santo Tomas, the country’s oldest Catholic school, staged the exhibit, which the CCP subsequently closed as a result of the President’s order.
President Aquino defended his decision, saying “there are rights (like freedom of expression) but if those rights hurt the rights of others, there is something wrong and that is not covered by the law… no freedom is absolute.” (Manila Bulletin)