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MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers and press groups on Monday came to the defense of columnist and TV5 host Ramon Tulfo, saying the assault against him by show-biz couple Raymart and Claudine Santiago was an attack against the media.
The attack, viewed by the public through an amateur video posted on YouTube,was sparked by Tulfo’s refusal to delete shots he took earlier of Claudine as she kept berating airline personnel, and of Raymart’s alleged move to seize the newsman’s mobile phone.
The press groups said seizing a basic “tool of the trade” of a journalist represented an attack on press freedom.
Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone said Tulfo could not be prevented from taking photographs or video of the confrontation between Claudine and the Cebu Pacific personnel at a counter at the Ninoy Aquino InternationalAirport Terminal 3 Sunday.
“I think the assault on Mon Tulfo was a direct attack on media,” Evardone said.
“It is the inherent right of the media and their basic instinct to gather and document facts and events. Mon’s action to take photos on the commotion at the airport was his right as a media man. The Barretos (Santiagos) have no right to prevent him from taking photos, much more to ask him to delete the photos,” Evardone, chairman of the public information committee in the House of Representatives, said.
In a separate statement, Agham party-list Representative Angelo Palmones said the Santiago couple displayed “the height of arrogance” by reportedly cursing the airlines personnel who were not responsible for their luggage problems.
“What I am saying is that the way the couple reacted is uncalled for, it’s a display of arrogance, and wala po tayo munang gustong husgahan dun sa kanilang naging behavior, but what we are saying is that as public figures we have to be very cautious in the way we handle things,” Palmones said.
With the advent of citizen journalism, Palmones said anyone who has a camera or a video can record or document public events and post it on the internet.
“That’s why we should be very cautious about what we do in public,” he added.
Palmones said the airport security should have been more quick in their response to avert the melee.
Both Evardone and Palmones are former journalists.
Attack on press freedom: NPC prexy
The National Press Club (NPC) described as an attack on press freedom the beating that Tulfo, got in the hands of a Santiago, his wife and their entourage at the Terminal 3.
Newly-elected NPC president Benny Antiporda said Monday: “While only an objective investigation of the incident can determine who really, or what really, started the one-sided brawl at the NAIA 3, columnist Mon Tulfo is only exercising his obligation as journalist when, according to him, he started taking video footage of Ms. Baretto while in the act of confronting a staffer of Cebu Pacific Air.”
“As prominent members of Philippine cinema and television, Mr. Santiago and Claudine are public figures whose every word and action any member of the press are free to record and report,” said Antiporda,
Tulfo is a lifetime member of NPC.
“What happened at the NAIA 3 is not a simple case of misunderstanding between passengers but an example of the culture of impunity still prevalent in our society where public figures like the Santiago couple are willing to resort to physical violence against a member of the press who is just doing his job,” Antiporda added.
“If the likes of the Santiago couple do not want the media to report on them, then they should quit showbiz, or much better, behave properly and civilly to fit their image as ‘role models’ to their fans and the general public."
Antiporda further noted that video clips of the incident now circulating on the internet via YouTube clearly show Santiago, Baretto and their still unidentified companions ganging up on the 65-year old columnist.
Reports said between five to eight people took turns beating up Tulfo.
to include the two showbiz personalities.
Antiporda also denounced airport authorities for lousy handling of the situation, with the videos showing the security guards and MIAA police completely unable to prevent the group of Santiago from attacking Tulfo.