Foreign Affairs secretary calls for censorship of ‘Abominable’ over depiction of China’s ‘nine-dash line’

(L) Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. (R) Controversial scene from ‘Abominable’ <I>Photo: ABS-CBN News,  YouTube screen grab / Dreamworks TV </I>
(L) Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. (R) Controversial scene from ‘Abominable’ Photo: ABS-CBN News, YouTube screen grab / Dreamworks TV

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. suggested in a tweet today that a scene in the animated movie Abominable showing China’s controversial “nine-dash line” should be removed.

The nine-dash line is the arbitrary and legally indefensible demarcation that the Chinese government has used to claim almost 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea (known elsewhere as the South China Sea, but screw that). The contested territory’s appearance in the movie was enough to prompt Vietnam to pull Abominable from its cinemas two days ago.

Vietnam, like the Philippines, is also claiming parts of the West Philippine Sea (or as they call it, the East Sea).

In a tweet that appeared yesterday, Locsin responded to a netizen calling for a ban by writing, “What about cutting out that scene? You’re a lawyer, on what ground can we ban—and which agency has that power—an implicit message, assuming any Filipino will assert his First Amendment right in the case?”

At the same time, Locsin also called for a universal boycott of all movies from Dreamworks, the producers of Abominable (who, by the way, are based in Glendale, California, so where the hell do they get off putting the nine-dash line in the movie anyway?).

In case you need a refresher on why the nine-dash line is total hogwash, in 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (backed by the United Nations) sided with the Philippines and invalidated China’s claim to parts of the West Philippine Sea. Chinese President Xi Jinping, however, rejected the ruling when President Rodrigo Duterte brought it up during his visit to Beijing in August this year, and China continues to use the line as justification to harass vessels in the waters it claims.

Read: Senator Tolentino drops genius plan to drive Chinese away with Filipino music

In a follow-up tweet today, Locsin said that cutting the “offending scene” is better than calling for an outright ban of the film, which could be unconstitutional.

“OF COURSE THEY SHOULD CUT OUT THE OFFENDING SCENE,” he added, in the characteristically testy all-caps follow-up, joking that the scene could be swapped for a message from the country’s film rating board. “DO CUT OUT CRUDELY. MAYBE INTERJECT MTRCB HEAD IN CUT OUT SCENE WITH A HECTORING LECTURE. THEN CARTOON GOES ON.”

When some netizens said an outright boycott was a better solution, Locsin, getting testier still, shot back, “I am not sending any f***ing message. A general boycott isn’t my duty but I’ve suggested it.”

Inexplicably taking the matter in a racist direction, as is his wont, the country’s top diplomat added, “All Dreamworks productions… IF that’s not an unconstitutional denial of Filipinos’ right to see what they want; not what some f***ing natives think they should or should not [see].”

Locsin aside, several Filipinos on Twitter have already given Vietnam props for banning the film, saying they’ll be boycotting it as well.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, said in a press statement yesterday that it is still up to the the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, the country’s board of censors, and the Department of Foreign Affairs to decide whether or not to pull the controversial cartoon from cinemas.

Co-produced by Shanghai-based Pearl Studio, Abominable is an animated adventure film that follows Chi, a Chinese teenager who goes on a quest with with a Yeti that she finds living on the roof of her apartment building. The joint production has already gained a level of success, performing well at both the US and Chinese box office after premiere in late September.

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