Playboy, FHM, Others Charged with Obscenity in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines—On Thursday, thanks to complaints filed by clergy from the Bible Baptist Churches of Metro Manila, several editors of the Philppines-based versions of Playboy, FHM, Maxim, Playhouse, Sagad, Hataw and Toro were arrested and preliminarily charged under Article 201 of Philippines Revised Penal Code with having created "Immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions and indecent shows"; with "grave scandal" ("offend[ing] against decency or good customs by any highly scandalous conduct") under Article 200, and under City Ordinance 7780, which criminalizes the printing and sale of "pornographic materials."

The "grave scandal" and "pornographic materials" charges were later dismissed by prosecutors, but the Article 201 "obscene publications" charges remain.

The charges stem from articles and photos which appeared in the magazines between September, 2007 and July, 2008, which the complainants—including Manila District 6 Rep. Bienvenido Abanta, who's also a senior pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Baptist Church of Sta. Ana—allege contained "pornographic, erotic or indecent pictures that exhibited nude or semi-nude bodies, sexual acts and private parts of male and female bodies with no educational, artistic, cultural or scientific value," which the complainants claim  "were clearly and purely intended or calculated to draw lust, stimulate sexual drive, excite impure imagination or arouse prurient interest."

Attorneys for Playboy and FHM objected to the blanket charges filed against all of the magazines' editors, saying they lacked specificity, and they demanded a bill of particulars detailing exactly which crimes were supposedly committed by which magazines, and in specific, which portions of those magazines were to be used as evidence.

"The specific acts supposedly committed by the respondents in the purported publication are not indicated in the complaint-affidavit in particularity as to allow them to know and understand the cause of the accusation against them," said attorneys for FHM—an argument that Playhouse also adopted.

Playhouse further stated that it had never published nudity nor photos of people's genital areas, and therefore could not be considered to be obscene, and Maxim stated that its semi-nude photos of actresses were "tastefully done and did not depict any sexual act or nudity."

Although the Philippines has its own constitutional government, attorneys for Hataw magazine sought to dismiss the case on the grounds that its published photo of a woman in a swimsuit was not obscene under the United States' Miller standard, and in any case did not depict sexual conduct in a patently offensive way.

All defendants are currently released on bail of approximately $557 each.