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.

Quite a Character

Guess what, Philippine Daily Inquirer? Funny faces are only funny when they’re made on purpose, and not when they’re the uncontrollable result of a debilitating cerebrovascular accident.

With all the elegance of a national broadsheet stooping to unethical levels that would make a tabloid blush, today’s PDI published incredibly tasteful photographs of witness Demetrio Vicente grimacing his way through a testimony. On the front page, even.

This isn't the picture we're talking about.

The photos have been called “unflattering,” “tasteless,” and “mean.” We don’t mince words. The decision to publish those particular photographs of the septuagenarian stroke survivor was downright cruel.

Inquirer’s instant statement amidst the backlash was the exact opposite of their usual coverage of the impeachment trial: on the defense. Their claim that the four-frame collage of Mr. Vicente’s facial expressions contained “the only photos available” is shut down by the fact that there are actually only two photos, with the other half of the quadrant being zoomed-in versions of the first two. What did you think that editorial call was, PDI? A stroke of genius?

As if the photographs weren’t funny enough — and by “funny” we mean “insulting to Mr. Vicente and stroke survivors and people with basic human values everywhere” — PDI couldn’t resist digging their elbow a little deeper into the side of ethical journalism. Which, by the way, isn’t ticklish.

Their caption:
“‘CHARACTER’ WITNESS The many faces of Demetrio Vicente on the witness stand. He’s no ordinary witness after all. He’s the cousin of the Chief Justice whose wife sold him seven parcels of land in 1990, where he now grows bonsai.”

Oh, I get it! He’s a “character” because he can’t control his facial muscles! Also, he is a witness! So witty, Inquirer. “Character” is properly ascribed to vintage furniture and James Earl Jones’ voice, not disabilities. People who come up with quips like these are the same people who Photoshop Mickey Mouse ears onto pictures of hydrocephalic babies.

(Thx, Indolent contributor Lady Dada!)

Anti-Social Media: Fixing A-hole

People of the press love raffles, and why not?

We may never become the people we cover, but at least there’s a way for us to (arguably) legitimately get some of their spoils. The rationale/justification being it’s not a pay off if everyone has an equal chance at winning. And given how much we make, even just a goody bag stuffed with imported chocolates  is pretty rich stuff.

And that  is why a reporter for Monthly Magazine* was pissed off at an anniversary party for a regional airline. At the end of the party, the airline raffled off an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Bangkok** as a grand prize.

The douche bag emcee hosting the party, and reportedly sleeping with the a top executive of that airline, picked the winning entry out of a hat (we assume) and said:

“And the winner is, from Monthly Magazine…

…Emcee’s Random Friend who does not work for Monthly Magazine!”

Cue feigned surprise (or actual surprise for the hack of a broadsheet known for its gripping and comprehensive coverage of job vacancies and second-hand cars who suddenly found out she worked at Monthly Magazine) and the hateful death stares of every other reporter, advertising executive, and decent human being at the hotel where the party was held.

Sources say the douche bag emcee does this all the time, doling out raffle prizes and other swag to members of his media mafia, whom we shall call Team Yuck. Members of the team lap it up, of course, and treat the douche bag emcee like he’s some sort of Supremo or whatever.

"Who, me? Not me! (Then, who?)"

Team Yuck’s fawning and their ability to say “fuck you” to both the art of writing and to integrity gets them more gifts, strings, and stints with up-market magazines and newspaper sections.

There is, after all, nobody better fed than a well-behaved and obedient dog.

*Not, obviously, the actual title of the magazine because that would just be lazy.

** Actually, its proper name is Krungthep Maha Nakorn, Amarn Rattanakosindra, Mahindrayudhya, Mahadilokpop Noparatana Rajdhani Mahasathan, Amorn Piman Avatarn Satit, Sakkatultiya Vishnukarn Prasit.

Congress: Serious Business

This is why we can’t have nice things like a law authorizing the government to talk to women about contraception and reproductive rights.

Says Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino: "It's an empty house, and it's only 6pm"


No wonder reporters on the House beat have resorted to intrigues and infighting. This place is so dead two hours after the session is supposed to start, they cannot be blamed for looking for more interesting things to think about, like what that guy meant when he posted that thing on Facebook, or how many congressmen to offer PR services to while still serving as a reporter on a daily broadsheet. I mean, it’s not like there’s much else to do.

Most days, congressmen just come in for the roll call (if they bother to come at all) and then retire to the House lounge to gather their strength after the extreme effort of appearing at the House. Those that stay behind listen to debates, chatter among themselves, or play Angry Birds.

(Thx, Twitter account of Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino!)

Anti-Social Media: Gentleman of the Press

A veteran employee at one government office stands to lose his retirement benefits over a bullshit complaint by a reporter from a small (in size and circulation) paper.

The reporter is, himself, rather small.

The reporter has accused the employee, who works in the media division of that government office, of kicking him and cursing at him over some minor misunderstanding.


Apparently, the reporter was lying on a couch in a room where government media hang out. Incidentally, he was also getting in the way of people trying to do their jobs.


When the government employee, a veteran photojournalist who has covered wars in Vietnam and Mindanao, tapped the reporter with his foot to ask him to get out of the way, the reporter got offended.


He immediately got on the phone to complain to the media division head saying he had been kicked. The cursing came after, and actually has basis. Pissed off at the fuss, the veteran photojournalist did say “Putang ina.”


Which, come on, doesn’t even mean anything anymore. Not when, as a source says, you’re a tabloid reporter who makes jokes about anal sex and sex in general. Besides, anyone who has worked with that government employee knows he’s cranky, half-deaf, and curses like a pirate all the time.


Putang ina. Kung sinipa ko siya, e di putok mukha nga (If I kicked him, his face would be busted),”  the government employee reportedly said in his defense. And, to be fair, the tabloid reporter’s face is. But that is from years ago and only the scars remain.


In an ideal world, journalists watch out for excesses and abuses in government. And it seems this tabloid reporter has taken that to heart, seeing the encounter as an affront to press freedom (or something similar).


This is not the first time, either. Sources say the tabloid reporter has previously raised hell after policemen guarding the government office he covers refused to let a taxi he was riding in enter the complex without leaving an ID. Incensed that the policeman did not know who he was and had the gall to do his job, our reporter had him summoned to the press office and gave him a dressing down until the cop apologized. For doing his job.


He may get his way again this time. We have been told that the media division is leaning on its employee to apologize just to get the bullshit complaint out of the way. Reportedly, he has already been suspended pending a decision on the complaint.


No word, though, on whether the tabloid reporter will ever apologize using the government agency’s name when he got arrested over something. Just when his press credentials would have come in handy (but unethically), our reporter took the moral high road and just claimed to be on the staff of a government official.

The reporter has been trying to make the career shift to political operator and has curried a lot of favor with government officials. He has been known to brag about his connections and his ability to get the government to pay for food and medicine for his friends.

You can call him “Bata” because he is child-like and because, as our tipster says, “bata siya ng mga politiko.” His family name is an island somewhere in the Visayas. Boracay, maybe?


(Thx for the tip, Indolent reader Payanig Sa Pa-Astig!)

In Defense of Willie Revillame – An Analysis of the Jan-Jan video

Watch the video again. Again. Closely. Pay attention. Watch the kid. Watch Willie. Listen. Consider the whole situation.

Outrageous, isn’t it? Willie Revillame was actually trying to SAVE the kid from humiliation.


To everyone saying that it’s degrading for the kid to dance like a stripper: you’re wrong.

Can’t blame you for thinking this, especially when Willie likened his performance to the scene in Burlesk Queen where a stripper was crying as she performed her dance, all too aware of the indignity and sexual degradation that she’s sunk into.

But see, Willie was making a joke. Because this is a completely different situation.

The kid’s humiliation doesn’t stem from the fact that he’s pantomiming a risque dance. He doesn’t understand that the act is sexual in nature. Or even what the hell “sexual in nature” means.

Proof: watch his face as he starts dancing automatically every time they start to play the music. Blank. Robotic. It’s Pavlovian how he goes through the exact same motions when that music starts playing.

To him, it’s just a meaningless act he was taught to do. This is what parents do, and probably what your parents did to you too: train their kid to perform tricks for their amusement. Doing a little skit, singing a little song — all so they can show you off to neighbours and relatives.

But for you and a million other angry netizens, because you recognise this particular trick as a risque dance, you imagine with horror what the kid must be feeling: the indignity of having to gyrate like a Babylonian harlot in front of this jeering audience.

But he doesn’t feel that way at all. This is just a cognitive bias on your part. You’re projecting. Because you think it’s sexually humiliating, you think that he also thinks it’s sexually humiliating. But it’s not. HE’S A SIX-YEAR-OLD KID.

It’s just a trick to him.

The kid wasn’t crying because he’s being exploited sexually. He’s crying over something else.

But what? Let’s return to the source.

In the scene where the kid is stepping up to the stage for his first dance. He’s already in tears. If it’s shame at his sexual act, as in Burlesk Queen, then he should only have started crying after he started the performance. But he already had tears in his eyes when he started, so let’s rewind.

You’ll notice that the kid was in a good mood before the performance starts, while Willie was talking to him. Pay attention to how Willie talks to him. He was actually very nice about it. His tone is gentle and earnest, and he would affectionately repeat and refer to to the kid’s name (“Ilang taon na si Jan-jan?”).

He does crack some jokes when he finds the kid’s response funny (like with the Dad owning a parlor.) and he and the audience have a laugh at it, but two things: one, these jokes go over the kids head (like how the sex thing is beyond him). You’ll see him smiling along as the audience laughs about it. Second, he reins in the audience when he senses the kid getting uncomfortable and then resumes his earnest questioning.

Listen to the kid’s voice throughout all this: normal. He even gives Willie some attitude when asked about his favorite singer. “Di po ako kakanta! (I’m not singing!)” he protests, which makes Willie genuinely laugh. This in turn makes the kid smile.

Now pay attention. We’re going to slow things down here because this is where the drama begins.

Willie asks the boy who he’s with.

Tita ko po (My aunt),” he says.

Willie asks where the kid’s mom is.

Sa bahay (At home),” he says.

Bakit hindi ka sinamahan ni Mama? (Why didn’t Mama come with you?)”

This is where Jan-jan’s tone starts changing into a more sombre mood. He explains that his mom couldn’t accompany him because she just gave birth. Willie senses the mood change and tries to disarm it with casual questions.

Eventually, Jan-jan points out the aunt in in the audience and she makes a request to be allowed to come up to the stage and give Willie a hug. Willie lets her and she is so moved that she breaks down in tears. She confesses that it’s always been her dream to hug Willie.

Now to us, this is the saddest and most pathetic thing ever, to actually see someone whose life goals include hugging Willie Revillame, and then see her actually accomplish it.

But to this poor woman, this is absolutely one of the best moments in her life and she is filled with emotion. The 3,000 pesos Willie gives her makes it even tackier for us, but for her, it’s a double rainbow.

After she returns to her seat, Willie turns back to Jan-jan and asks him if he’s got anything to say to his aunt.

This is it.

As Jan-jan begins to thank his aunt for accompanying her here, his voice starts to break. This is where he starts to cry. And this is why:

He watched the genuinely heartfelt emotions that his aunt expressed and as a six-year-old kid who’s watching a loved one cry, he himself was moved. As he starts expressing gratitude to his aunt and to his dad for bringing him here, he finally wasn’t able to hold himself back and starts tearing up.

At this point, what did you expect Willie to do? Can you stop for a moment to actually play out the alternate scenarios in your head?

Did you expect him to stop the live show, kill the audience’s buzz, and delve into why the kid is crying? Should he have cancelled the kid’s performance and asked him to leave the stage? Should he have called his aunt to get the kid from the stage, the same kid who was so moved that his aunt brought him all the way here because his mother couldn’t?

These are all horrible alternatives and would in fact have lead to greater shame and embarassment for the kid.

So Willie Revillame did something beautiful. He actually tried to stop the kid from crying. He gave him a quick pep talk and encouraged Jan-jan to overcome his sadness by going ahead with his performance and showing off his talent to everybody. He was really nice about this and even gave the kid a kiss.

Jan-jan got up there and started to dance.

If Jan-jan instead sang a beautiful slow song, or performed another style of dance, then there would be no outrage. There would be standing ovation at this kid who persevered through the tears and still managed to perform his talent.

But no, it was a lewd dance. What everyone got was a most incongruous combination of crying and hip gyrating.

It caught the audience by surprise, including Willie. Remember, he originally thought the kid was going to sing. Not dance, especially not like this (UPDATE: Commenter bp pointed out that Willie knew what the kid was going to do). It was absurd. And everyone in studio found it hilarious.

To everyone else watching on the Internet, they just focused on the image of the kid, apparently crying over being forced to do these perverted acts. And because this is Willie Revillame, the despicable sleazeball that’s hated by everyone above a certain income tax bracket, everyone just assumed the worst. “Child abuse” was the accusation.

But watch again, and you’ll find there’s no abuse here. The kid’s crying is unrelated to his dancing, and that dance, in turn, has no sexual meaning for him at all.

Beyond the laughter and the outrage, we forget that there’s a kid who’s actually proud to perform his talent, however distasteful this talent may seem to some of you. He stopped crying midway through, neither shame nor humiliation in his face. He was determined to finish this dance.

He pulled it off, and Willie immediately jumped in to heap praises on him. Naturally, he threw in a few jokes about it, but if you listen, he was genuinely trying to comfort and congratulate the kid. And when Willie asked him to perform for a second time, it was clear, Jan-jan was over his sadness–his chin jutting out, steely resolve on his face.

I am not apologising for Willie Revillame’s character. With or without this incident, the guy is still a total sleazeball. There are plenty of good reasons why you should hate Willie, but I believe this isn’t one of them. Sure he and the studio audience got some lulz from the kid, but it wasn’t of an abusive nature that everyone claims it to be. And anyway, that’s the nature of his show, right? He makes fun of all his guests. In fact, given how he usually behaves, I think he was very supportive and kind to Jan-jan already. Relatively.

I may be wrong but please, before reacting, do watch the video again, consider my points, and let’s discuss it.

–Joseph Dent

Poverty: a numbers game

Remember all those street urchins and various poor people you see on the streets begging and selling sampaguitas?

read more »

Waily Revillame, amirite?

So, it seems Wowowee host and opiate of the people Willie Revillame threw a tantrum again.

I am Jesus...Christ!

Revillame was offended that Jobert Sucaldito, a commentator at ABS-CBN’s radio station DZMM, asked why the show chose to get students who got an average grade of 75-79% in school instead of, say, kids with better grades. To Revillame, this was tantamount to calling his contestants stupid, and he’s having none of it. He has threatened to leave the noontime variety show unless ABS-CBN fires Sucaldito. “I’m doing this for the masses. For the special children who have grades of 75%,” he said.

Sucaldito’s radio co-host Wendell Ramos has denied that anyone suggested the contestants were stupid. The point, apparently, was that it would have been better to get students with high grades to inspire children to study harder. With the employment market as it is, I guess getting on a game show is as good a career goal as any.

Not to put too fine a point on things, but getting an average of 75-79% sort of does mean that a student is not among the best and brightest. (Disclosure: I am not among the best and brightest.) That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be on Wowowee, of course, just that there are people smarter than they are.  Pointing that out doesn’t make one an asshole, or oppressive, or discriminatory.

But Willie wants to make it about that. He says he is standing up for his fans: the trash collectors, the poor, the people who don’t get good grades. Which would be great if they had anything to do with the whole thing. If  anyone, Willie was the one doing these average students a disservice by calling them special children and threatening to leave the show on their behalf. Defensive much?

In reaction, Sucaldito gave the only intelligent response in situations like this: Kaloka siya. Pikon sobra. (roughly: Shut up, you pansy.)