MANILA 21 September 2012: An inflammatory anti-Islamic film was screened at one of the Philippines’ top universities on Friday, defying a ban imposed by school officials who did not want it shown for security reasons.
Harry Roque, a prominent human rights lawyer and lecturer at the state-run University of the Philippines in Manila, said he screened the “Innocence of Muslims” as a demonstration of freedom of expression.
“As an academic, as a lawyer, I cannot allow rights to be infringed upon. I am in perfect discharge of my duties as a law professor and I’m willing to take whatever consequence,” he told reporters.
The movie was screened in a classroom as part of Roque’s constitutional law class on freedom of speech and went off without incident despite the university’s ban and rumours of a bomb threat.
Earlier, the university’s College of Law, which has produced several Philippine presidents and Supreme Court justices, issued a statement saying: “It (the movie showing) will not push through for security reasons.”
Signs were also posted at the college, saying “No film showing” but Roque’s class of about 20 students and a handful of observers, including fellow law school professors, still showed up.
Roque said efforts to prevent him from showing the film had made it more imperative that he screen it.
He had previously publicly announced his plans to play the film, inviting media and the public to attend.
Roque said he was forced to provide his own projector, computer, speakers and screen because the university would not lend him any equipment.
After the screening, he told his students: “Now that we have seen it, we can confidently say it is trash.”
He said that he did not endorse the movie’s message, saying it was laughable, but stressed it was important to have the opportunity to watch the movie.
One of his students, Gene Upaje, said: “The intent (of the movie) was to offend, but a rational Muslim would not be offended... because it is a desperate attempt to put their prophet in a bad light.”
The amateurish film, made by an extremist Christian in the United States, has triggered protests by Muslims in at least 20 countries since excerpts were posted online. More than 30 people have been killed in related violence.
Although the Philippines is largely Christian, it has a Muslim minority based largely in the far south, some of whom have been waging a decades-long armed struggle for independence or autonomy.
On Monday, hundreds of Filipino Muslims in the southern city of Marawi staged a non-violent rally over the film, burning US and Israeli flags.
The country’s main Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is engaged in peace talks with the government, has rejected Al-Qaeda calls to attack US targets over the film.