Seares: Activated Cebu City 'morality police' CAIB seeks tougher ordinance against indecency. To include in ban with penalty: sale of sex toys and sculpture showing male, female genitalia. Author Jessica Resch also wants to criminalize internet pornography, against provider and consumer.

CEBU. Cebu City Councilor Jessica Resch and CAIB chief Lucille Mercado (right) with members of the anti-indecency board. (Photos from Resch's Facebook page and Cebu Daily News via Cebu City News & Information Center)
CEBU. Cebu City Councilor Jessica Resch and CAIB chief Lucille Mercado (right) with members of the anti-indecency board. (Photos from Resch's Facebook page and Cebu Daily News via Cebu City News & Information Center)

A WARNING SHOT fired last December 2022 was the activation by Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama of CAIB, short for City Anti-indecency Board. Rama appointed former city administrator Lucelle Mercado, who headed CAIB during Rama's 2013-2016 term.

It was reportedly during Mercado's stint that "lewd" shows in bars and nightclubs were stopped and "obscene" content in magazines, tabloids and radio drama was attacked by CAIB operatives.

"We'll give the same intensity, even more, to fight against indecent material in any platform." The same members who composed the previous CAIB are the people the mayor "has called upon" to police against indecency, Mercado said last December 1, 2022, when the force "convened for the first time in seven years."

ORDINANCES #2436, #1408 NOT ENOUGH? City Ordinance #2436 created the CAIB, which "shall pass upon the exhibition, printing, circulation, sale of obscene pictures, films, books or publications, stage shows and skits" in Cebu City.

City Ordinance #1408 amended the city's law and yet the new amendatory ordinance, filed by Councilor Jessica Resch, ex-officio member representing the youth sector, says there's "a void in the implementation." Not in the regulations the City Council has laid down but in the "implementation"?

According to the "whereases" in the Resch ordinance -- presented to the City Council Wednesday, March 15, 2022, for first reading -- the present regulations are deficient because:

[] Selling sculptures that "depict male and female genitalia (anus, breast, penis, vagina and the like, including sex toys)" is mentioned but not declared unlawful in existing ordinance.

[] Children's access to pornography has been made easy by advances in technology and that needs "to be eradicated and curbed immediately."

PROPOSED CHANGES, ADDITIONS. What the proposed new amendment seeks to change, expand or improve:

[] Scope of CAIB's functions. It shall have the power to conduct not just inspections and investigations on all bookstores, magazine shops, newspaper stands, adult stores, theaters, nightclubs, beer houses, KTV cocktail lounges, bars, spa and massage parlors or massage clinics, sauna bath parlors, and other similar establishments, but also "operations." And "inspections, operations and investigations" not just in those presently listed places but also in "ordinary stalls and stores" and "internet cafes."

"Internet cafes" get a lot of attention in the amendatory ordinance. The "internet cafes" that "allow access to pornographic materials, websites, various social media platforms and software" are the target.

[] Extent of access, power to seize. The present ordinance already requires owners and managers of establishments "to give full and conditional access to CAIB or its deputies at any time of the day or night." Resch's amendment further orders CAIB to "cause the prosecution of violators," including "confiscation of the evidence."

Sex toys or objects that are "obscene, indecent, lewd or inimical to the preservation of peace and good morals" shall be "confiscated/forfeited in favor of the government." That provision apparently covers the problem of sculptures of persons displaying their genitals.

STIFFER PENALTIES. The higher penalties include revocation/suspension of business permit, closure of the establishment, payment of fines, on top of criminal charges in court. The offensive material shall be confiscated to be used as evidence.

Aside from administrative penalties, "all persons" who violate the unlawful acts under Section 7 shall be liable to a fine of P5,000 or meted a jail term of not more than six months, or both fine and imprisonment at the court's discretion.

The City will spend P2 million to "support the activities and projects" of CAIB.

CAIB ALSO TO POLICE INTERNET. Included in the unlawful acts under Resch's amendment -- covered by Section 7, letters (n) and (o), next to sex toys and other "indecent, lewd, obscene, and pornographic objects" -- are:

[] "Posting and making available lewd and obscene pictures, videos, television shoes, radio programs in social media platform or the internet"; and

[] "Accessing in public internet sites and software applications with pornographic, lewd, obscene, video and photos."

Keeping away children from the lewd stuff in the internet is one thing. Going after the internet provider of obscene material and all its consumers in general is another. That's difficult ground on which even national legislators fear to tread.

WHAT IS OBSCENE, WHO DECIDES. That's another tricky issue, which the Supreme Court already decided against would-be censors.

The "morality" police cannot be the arbiter of what is obscene and confiscate any material that offends the sensibilities of CAIB through its deputies.


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