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.

In Defense of Mon Tulfo

It must be a cold day in hell because, for the first time ever, this website sympathizes with Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo.

Not because of anything he said but because of what happened to him: Held down and beaten by two celebrities and their man-tourage at an airport.

Also, too much pink

The fight apparently began when Tulfo, being both curious and at one time in his life vaguely a journalist, took out his mobile phone to take pictures of actress Claudine Barretto complaining about misplaced luggage.

According to the Inquirer, where Tulfo works:

Tulfo pulled out his mobile phone and took photos of the scene, which he said would form part of a column he intended to write, when a man from the actress’ group approached him.

The man, whom he later recognized as Barretto’s husband, “demanded to get my phone which I used in taking shots.” Tulfo said he refused to surrender his phone.

Santiago continued to force Tulfo to give up his phone when several men joined the actor, according to the columnist. Tulfo said he could not recall who threw the first punch because he was being ganged up [on].

Tulfo says he was blind-sided but Barrett and her husband Raymart Santiago say Tulfo started the fight:

In an interview with Inquirer Entertainment and posted on INQUIRER.net after the incident, Santiago said that when he approached Tulfo to ask him about his cellphone video, the columnist suddenly punched and kicked him and his wife.

“Why would I hit an older man in front of my children? I wasn’t brought up by my parents that way,” he explained.

As we have no way of knowing how the Santiagos brought Raymart up, we will have to take that at face value. We will also have to note, however, that “not being brought up that way” has as much weight as a legal defense as saying “It wasn’t me.”

Tulfo’s reputation as a hot-headed potty mouth works against him in this case, as was seen on the first reactions on Twitter: They were pretty much about how Tulfo is “less of a man” for getting into a fight with a girl (and her man-tourage). But this was before a video of the incident began circulating on the Internet:

Barretto insists, on ABS-CBNNews.com,  that Tulfo kicked her and kicked her first:

Barretto said Tulfo also kicked her twice when she confronted him about why he punched her husband.

“Lumapit ako sabi ko ‘Anong problema mo? Bakit ka nanununtok?’ Tapos bigla na lang humarap siya sa akin, tinadyakan niya ako ng dalawang beses sa hita tapos tinulak ako sa may counter ng sobrang lakas,” she said.

Tulfo admits he may have kicked Barretto:

While trying to fight his way out, Tulfo said Barretto, who was nearby, repeatedly cursed at him. He said he might have hit the actress with a kick as he tried to fight back.

In that video, someone, presumably Santiago keeps saying “Hindi pa ako tapos! (I’m not yet done!).” And that, more than anything, makes whatever defense that Tulfo allegedly started the fight invalid.

Let’s say Tulfo did start the fight. Santiago and his man-tourage would have been justified in hitting back, but only to a certain extent. Knock him out, maybe. Or push him away and then form a protective circle around Barretto until security arrived. Engaging in a brawl does not count as self defense.

According to the Revised Penal Code, Santiago and his man-tourage can claim self defense in the face of unlawful aggression, but that hinges on the reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it and the lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.*

A choke hold while loudly proclaiming you are not yet done does not count as reasonable necessity in any case except in the Octagon. Tulfo was on the ground and, although he was fighting back, was no longer a threat to anything except his tough-guy image.** Security was also on the way by the time the video was taken, so Santiago, his pal in pink, and Barretto could have–should have–backed off already.

Also, Barretto is seen taking part in the brawl herself, which means she’s as much a part of it as their bad-ass friend in pink whom Tulfo actually hits with a kick. Despite being held in a choke hold. And being an old man. Good job, Turtle.

More important than a celebrity couple beating up someone who is vaguely a journalist is a celebrity subjecting ordinary citizens to verbal abuse:

Barretto allegedly started cursing at Cebu Pacific ground staff Cid Charisse Bocboc and Kristina Anne Ilagan after she found out that their luggage had been left behind.

Aside from not having their luggage, Barretto also got mad because their flight was delayed, Bocboc told airport authorities.

Bocboc said she asked Barretto for the baggage claim stub and description of their luggages for proper tracing, but Barretto reportedly continued her tongue-lashing of the ground crew in front of other arriving passengers.

Ilagan, on the other hand, told authorities she explained to Barretto that due to weight limitations and for safety reason, their luggages had to be flown to Kalibo Airport, Aklan and that these would soon be brought to Manila.

Despite their explanations, Ilagan and Bocboc, in their handwritten statements to airport authorities, said Barretto continued to verbally abuse them.

We get that flying on Cebu Pacific can be a headache sometimes, but that is no reason to take it out on the ground crew in Manila for luggage left behind in Aklan. In the first place, they had nothing to do with it, being in Manila. And also, they are just wage slaves like the rest of us who aren’t celebrities and do not deserve that sort of treatment at all. Especially not for a problem that was already being addressed: the luggage was already being brought over to Manila.

One must also note that the luggage was supposedly left behind due to “weight limitations and for safety reason (sic)” so Barretto and Santiago may have had something to do with that. Maybe they packed too much stuff? Even if they didn’t, it bears thinking about that had Cebu Pacific loaded the luggage on the plane, the argument would not have happened. Possibly because the plane crashed into the sea.

*An Act Revising the Penal Code and Other Penal Laws [REVISED PENAL CODE], Act No.3815, art.11 (1932)

** I mean, he’s in pink even.