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The Social Perception of Obscene

Billboards in the Philippines



Definition of Terms


Various Views
a. Views of the Media
b. Views of the Church
c. Views of the General Public





The primary objective of this paper is to prove the negative social
perception towards obscene billboard in the Philippines by first, by enumerating
the various effects of these billboards, second, by showing how these billboards
affect the Philippines image and finally, by discussing how obscene billboards
influence the product and/or services they endorse.

The Philippines is known to be a conservative country because of the strong
Roman Catholic background that came from Spain in the 1500s to 1800s. Women
often dress traditionally with gowns that signify the likes of Maria Clara which
embodies the ethical, pure, and wholesome traits of a normal Filipina. During the
time of the Spanish occupation, most of the people's lives revolved around the
teachings of the bible where they would follow the commandments that taught
them how to live like Jesus Christ who is known to be the source of all that is good
and pure. As time progressed and the Philippines was conquered by different other
countries, it was exposed to different kinds of cultures which differ from the
respectable reputation it has retained beforehand.

The integrity of the community was strongly influenced by the new cultures
and experiences that they were supposed to reject, but instead they accepted the
changes. The society embraced the freedom from the restricted norms that they
have adapted to and they started compromising the said respectable reputation.
In Manila, you would easily see raunchy advertisements in the newspapers,

television commercials, magazines, stickers on vehicles, but mostly on big

platforms like the billboards along the highways. Most billboards would have
women provocatively dressed as they endorse brands that do not necessarily need
such type of advertising.


Definition of Terms

According to Merriam-Webster, an advertisement is a published statement

informing the public of a matter of general interest. In a more legal sense,
advertisement is defined in Memorandum Circular No. 10 as the act of advertising,
giving notice or calling the attention of the public thru the use of posters, banners,
billboards or any advertising signs. A billboard, as defined by the same circular,
shall mean a panel for posting bills or posters. Although there was no clear
definition for what is considered as obscene, Section 7 of the MMDA Regulation
04-0004 provides that the following are prohibited signs: 1) advertisement of
cigar/cigarettes, tobacco, liquor, prohibited drugs; 2) exhibit of graphic display of
sexuality/nudity that is offensive to public morals; 3) Sanitary products, birth
control devices or birth control medicines, underwear and other sensitive products;
and, 5) other signs that will pose danger/nuisance to the motorists or may cause
inconvenience to the general public. Furthermore, Section 2001 (b) of the National
Building Code states that "No sign or signboard shall be constructed as to unduly
obstruct the natural view of the landscape, distract or obstruct the view of the
public as to constitute a traffic hazard, or otherwise defile, debase or offend
aesthetic and cultural values and traditions."


Various Views

The View of the Media

The advertisers and owners of these agencies posting billboards are saying
that these billboards help generate consumer sales hence, help in serving the

manufacturing and retail industries, creating jobs for the people. Moreover, they
contend that the accidents on roads and highways are not caused by the alleged
distraction provided by the billboards but are caused mostly by reckless driving.
They say that billboards are built for commuters and non-drivers.

On the other hand, billboard supporters say that these billboards are mode of
communication that imparts useful information to millions of people. The current
controversy is about commercial speech.1

Commercial Speech
Commercial speech is a speech whose object is to invite a commercial
transaction such as sale. For many years, jurisprudence did not consider
commercial speech as protected by the Constitution. The reason for this is that the
broad powers of the State to regulate businesses included an equally broad power
to regulate commercial speech. But nowadays, commercial advertising enjoys
constitutional protection. Billboards constitute protected commercial speech.
Nonetheless, commercial speech has not been accorded protection with the same
level as that which is given to political and religious speeches.

Relative Obscenity
The billboards, for the advertisers, are not illegal nor obscene. However,
obscenity could be relative to the age level of the viewers. The Outdoor
Advertising Association of the Philippines should define what is allowable and
what is not.2


The View of the Church

Obscenity--as defined by a catholic organization-- is whatever that is
sinfully calculated to arouse sexual pleasure in a person. The nature of the object
that arouse the pleasure is immaterial. What is essential is the wrong intent of
someone who presents, produces, or depicts something that experience shows will
arouse sexual pleasure. The intention is wrong because its purpose is to
unnecessarily provoke sexual pleasure outside the privileges of marriage. And the
object of the intention is the person, of whatever age, whose sexual desires are
inevitably excited by the obscene stimulus.3

Endless arguments about it and yet churches cannot resolve the issue
because none of them can really define what obscenity is. One of the traditional
arguments against obscenity proceeds from the premise that only sex within
marriage is moral and that sex outside of marriage, including masturbation and the
entertaining of lustful thoughts, is always immoral. At a minimum, it is argued,
obscenity contributes to masturbation and lustful thoughts and even when
produced under non-coercive conditions, contributes to sex outside of marriage.4

The View of the Public

Driving up or down EDSA, one will see huge billboards lining up competing
for the attention of motorists and their passengers. As such, the beauty or nonbeauty of Metro Manila reflects upon the character of the Filipino. Companies
spend thousands just to get something advertised. From a variety of billboards,
great number of unethical images are posted for public.

In 2008, then Senate President Manny Villar introduced Senate Bill No.
2345, a bill to ban such billboards. Villars Senate Bill proposed the Act
Prohibiting the Public Exhibition or Display of Obscene and/or Distractive Motion

or Still Pictures. Obscene and/or destructive pictures are regarded by law as

nuisance per se to the community. All the more if these pictures were displayed in
major thoroughfares as billboards where huge number of pedestrians and vehicles
pass by every day. Nowadays, many of these picture billboards, colossal in size
and several in number can be seen in our major thoroughfares advertising products
movies and services. Instances of such thoroughfares are Epifanio de 10s Santos
Avenue, Aurora Boulevard, and North Luzon Expressway.5

Another issue being raised by obscene pictures is their influence upon how people,
especially children, perceive obscenity. The fact that these obscene images are
displayed insensitively and openly, the community may see it as normal and
proper. Children may view models wearing provocative clothing doing sexy
positions as good role models. On the other hand, adults may see these obscene
images and trigger their sexually impure desires that results to sex related offenses.

Children are easily influenced by the acts of others and the problem with this
is that they can't decide yet which ones are wrong and which ones are right. They
basically perceive everything in a positive manner, unless of course they are given
proper guidance and supervision. However, there is no guarantee that every adult
in the household will take time to explain certain circumstances to the children. As
aforementioned, these obscene billboards can be mistaken by children as good
examples. The message imparted by the billboard can transpire in a misinterpreted
way which then gives the child a wrong kind of knowledge. It's very important to
make sure that people of young age start out with decent and righteous information
because these things are determining factors to how they will act in the future.
There's no harm in being careful with what we physiologically provide for the

/ As for the matter concerning its effects on adults, we are all very much
aware of some occurrences where obscene billboards would lead to accidents or
conflicts because of the alluring image or intriguing message. Contents like these
are undoubtedly effective when it comes to entertainment but it would be a lot
more necessary to consider the downside of this situation. The very fact that a law
was created for the purpose of regulating the implementation of such

advertisements should already be a sufficient indication that this can be harmful to

the public. We must open ourselves to the possibility that ommitting these boards
can take us to another step towards the establishment of a stronger integrity for our
society. There are tons of other ways to deliver a message or endorse a product
without having to be revealing and immoral in some ways we fail to envision.

III. Conclusion
The classic justification for regulating obscene advertising, specifically
billboards, is to prevent readers from being depraved and corrupted by sexually
oriented publications. Moral harm is not an unfamiliar idea. It is what most parents
have in mind when they censor what their children are allowed to see. Just as good
literature invites us to perceive the world subtly and empathetically, it is possible
for novels, films, or television shows to view the world crudely and insensitively,
and to spin out self-aggrandizing fantasies that invite self-centeredness and cruelty.
Discerning the moral content of text is, however, too complex a task for the law to
undertake. Some pornography is morally bad because it encourages the reader to
regard other people as mere objects of sexual interest, whose feelings and desires
do not matter. But this cannot be the basis for a workable legal test for obscenity,
because it is too vague and its application is too contestable to be a rule of law.

Removing the billboards is not the best solution for there are other billboards
established around the parameters of Metro Manila and all the other cities of the
Philippines. Children are exposed to such advertising all the time as they walk
along the streets, surf the internet or travel along highways. The real challenge is
how to strengthen the morality of the children as well as the members of our
society internally so that they are not affected emotionally or morally by what is
portrayed in such billboards.

It would all start in the household of every family in the country. Parents
must set a good example to their children in all aspects. The use of the internet
should be controlled by the parents and they could continue to block the websites
that need not to be seen by their children. Censorship is thus a routine part of what
parents do. Parents task is facilitating if material objectionable to many of them
cannot be given to their children without permission. Authorized persons must

provide each child with the strength and knowledge of how to resist the
temptations of our very own open society.

IV. Bibliography
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