Overplaying the Victim Card

Here’s an interesting update on the brawl between Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo, Raymart Santiago, Claudine Barretto, and their pal in pink:

InterAksyon, the online news portal of TV5,where Tulfo’s brothers work, has a video showing Raymart and pals threw the first blow. It was a wimpy blow worthy of men in pink who beat down senior citizens, but there you go.

The video shows a man in a pink shirt who was talking to Tulfo. The man was beside a woman in pink tops and white shorts, attire that is similar to what Barretto was wearing during the May 6 incident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

The man in pink shirt was seen on the video hitting Tulfo in the head with his left hand.

The scene reportedly took place before the melee.

And here’s the video:

But allegedly throwing the first punch–or any punch at all–is not the worst that this celebrity couple has done.

After the scuffle, Tulfo’s  brothers Erwin, Raffy, and Ben made threats against the couple, threatening retribution and hinting at a rematch. They have apologized for that, and were suspended by the network. The show itself was suspended by government censors.

That did not stop Santiago and Barretto from playing the victim card in the media, and, in effect, pissing on people with legitimate concerns like human rights.

The couple, for example, approached Gabriela Women’s Party for counseling, support and sympathy because, as a celebrity, Barretto’s only recourse is to run to a legitimate mass organization and make it look publicity hungry. Gabriela cannot be faulted for supporting her, of course. How can they turn away a victim of violence against women?

While we do not condone Ms. Barretto’s manner of confronting the Cebu Pacific staff for the inconvenience that her family encountered, and how she might have reacted to Mr. Tulfo, she and her family do not deserve, as no human being deserves, the violence they experienced,” Gabriela said on ABS-CBN.com

What rankles is that Barretto is–except for being a woman–unlike the women that are in, or need, Gabriela. She is a celebrity, and probably has enough money for counseling from a psychiatrist. She certainly has enough money to hire lawyer Alex Avisado, who counts Senator Panfilo Lacson as a client. This writer gets the sense, then, that the move was more for publicity than for anything else: Look at us, we’re so poorwawa, we need Gabriela to defend us. And, during the time Barretto was milking that visit to Gabriela accompanied by television cameras and reporters, some other woman who cannot afford counseling or a big-name lawyer might otherwise have been served.

Not content with that, and possibly because Gabriela was smart enough not to let themselves be used to sway public opinion in an incident that does little for its cause, the couple then sought a writ of amparo (Recurso de Amparo) or protection from the Tulfo Brothers.

Which, to be fair, they can under the law.

Which, to be fair, doesn’t mean they should have. The writ, adopted from Latin American jurisdictions, was not originally intended as a legal relief in airport scuffles.

According to the Supreme Court, the writ was meant “to protect against human rights abuses especially during the time they were governed by military juntas. Generally, these countries adopted the writ to provide for a remedy to protect the whole range of constitutional rights, including socio-economic rights.”

The same Supreme Court annotation adds: “The writ covers extralegal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof,” a problem that this country has been having trouble addressing.

Again, sure, Raymart and Claudine can certainly ask for a writ of amparo. They can also hire bodyguards or get their pink-shirted buddy to hang out with them more often for their protection. Or, you know, not pay the Tulfos any mind because, come on, they would have to be pretty stupid to make threats on TV and then actually carry those out.

The court granted the petition and they now have police protection, so hooray. We’re paying our Philippine National Police to babysit these two.

To illustrate how this is the height of douchebaggery and a mockery of what the writ of amparo was meant to be, consider who else has filed a petition for that writ: the parents of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, two U.P. students who have been missing since 2006.