Legal Luminaries Stress Line between Obscenity, Art Just a Gossamer Thread

Manila Bulletin, August 30, 2004 | Go to article overview

Legal Luminaries Stress Line between Obscenity, Art Just a Gossamer Thread


Byline: DONALD JACOB

BAGUIO CITY At a point when the governments drive to eliminate the sale of pornographic materials is at its peak, authorities have yet to define the thin line between obscenity of pornography versus art.

"What is pornography to one man is the laughter of genius to another," British novelist D.H. Johnson said. Some might regard a particular nude painting or photograph as pornography but would be considered as a work of art by another person.

And any form that the naked body is presented could titillate ones mind to think. Whether that thinking be geared for the sake of art or plainly satisfying ones morose taste of pornography or obscenity depends on so many aspects.

Nudity in itself is not pornographic. "But when it tends to titillate the sexual appetite or to arouse the sexual interest of the one viewing the unclothed body, it will be called obscene," says lawyer Rene Cortes.

However, the thin line that would finally settle the battle between pornography and art has not yet really been drawn even with the fact that the Revised Penal Code in Art 201 has put a test of pornography.

Few in Philippine jurisprudence are cases of successful prosecution of pornography. If there are arrests and confiscation of pornographic materials and their supposed authors, it is only for "press release purposes, or pogi points, moralists observe. The issue is a complicated one, in which the fine lines have neither been drawn nor divided, jurists say.

"Art and censorship will always be at odds. Taste of people vary and ultimately, the decision rests on the viewer themselves to determine which work of art is acceptable and which are not."

But as the culture and mores of the society , especially the Filipino society, become more relaxed, a liberal interpretation is more fitting. In defining art as well as pornography, one has to consider the individual differences of people.

"Obscenity is subjective," so says former Youth Rep. Edgar Avila, " because it highly depends on the appreciation of an individual. Appreciation on the other hand, depends also on the socio-cultural, emotional and mental well-being of a person as he views the naked body.

Obscenity or art is discernable and perceptible from the reaction of the public viewing it. Whether the motive of the picture as indicated by it is pure or impure; or whether it is naturally calculated to excite pure imagination are the tests of obscenity as laid down by the Supreme Court in People vs Serrano. …

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