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It could easily have been me on the front pages, I guess, since I had just come back from a brief tanning interlude in Bora - a diminutive I find affected but am using now for effect - but my party and I had no problem with our luggage when we got back.
It fell, therefore, to Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barretto to make the headlines after Mrs. Santiago blew her top when Cebu Pacific informed her that her family’s luggage had been loaded onto a different plane.
Apparently, whatever mellowing a Bora vaycay exerted on the spouses Santiago was diluted and in fact dissipated entirely when Mr. Santiago, who in his cinematic heyday as an action hero had tangled with the meanest-looking villains, spotted a man using his cell phone to take snaps of the missus publicly berating the Cebu Pacific groundcrew. Santiago confronted the camera guy and demanded that the latter surrender his phone, a request which the guy thumbed down. It’s still unclear who threw the first punch, but the melee that followed was captured digitally and faster than you can say “damage control,” quickly surfaced on Youtube.
Except that the camera guy was no ordinary paparazzo: he was no other than Mon Tulfo, a genuine member of the working press and who in real life tangles with the meanest villains.
Footage of the incident showed the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s resident tough guy set upon, not by one, but two, Santiagos, and while Raymart and Mon were being separated by airport security, Claudine, whose television stock-in-trade is the angelic sweetheart, managed to get a few licks in. As they say, hell hath no fury like a woman whose suitcases have been loaded onto the wrong airplane.
Ordinarily, fisticuffs between a newspaper columnist and a B-list showbiz couple ought to be settled out of court and out of earshot -- there have got to be more important news than this -- except that both parties have embarked on a media offensive to try to get the public’s sympathy.
First blood was drawn by Tulfo when he filed a complaint for physical injuries and grave coercion against the couple and something tells me -- something called cynicism -- that a counter-charge will soon be filed by the Santiagos in a day or two. It will be a shame if the lawyers of both parties permit the case to reach the trial stage because worse cases have been resolved amicably; while it is news, the NAIA 3 incident is such a non-event that I see no point in wasting the court’s time and the taxpayers’ money in allowing the case to reach the court.
I’ve been grappling with a disquieting sense of ambivalence about Tulfo v. Santiago, a feeling I could not explain at first.
On one hand, the affair seemed laughable to me: nothing is more entertaining to the hoi polloi than seeing prominent names duking it out in public. It’s like watching two women go at each other in an honest-to-goodness catfight. You want to break it up but not right away because, let’s face it, no one’s going to get really hurt and in the meantime, it’s a comic spectacle. As to two men fighting, I dismissed the tiff as no Pacquiao v. Mayweather, though I have no doubt that the combatants see themselves as two alpha males -- I would snort “Wah!” in emulation of Miriam Defensor Santiago except that I don’t know if I’m spelling it correctly -- in a fight to the death.
The brawl had its comic elements, you have to admit if you’re not the uptight type, particularly when the missus Santiago waded into the fray and landed a few choice ones on the rough-and-ready crime-buster who had on a pastel shirt at the moment of crisis. Classic.
But the ambivalence I could not explain.
The threat of litigation was just testosterone talking, I thought, until Tulfo filed charges before the fiscal. The explanation wasn’t long in forthcoming, but to justify the seriousness with which I shall now treat the incident, we will have to assume that Tulfo was not the aggressor in this mess. Perhaps he will not be able to articulate my point -- I am unsure if he even realizes it -- because as far as he’s concerned, the attack is personal.
It was, but it is also symbolic.
Last Thursday, media worldwide observed World Press Freedom Day. One of the objectives of the observance is to draw attention to the dangers posed to journalists in the exercise of their profession. Daily, journalists are harassed and put in danger as they go about informing the public about what is going on in the world. In extreme cases, they are physically attacked and even killed. The Maguindanao massacre is a grisly reminder of the latter.
Tulfo is a journalist. He witnessed an incident that any media veteran will immediately recognize as newsworthy. He took pictures of the incident as any good journalist would. He was attacked. The fact that his attackers were showbiz celebrities does not make the mauling any less violent. The fact that accounts of the attack qualify it for the entertainment section of a newspaper does not make the mauling any less serious.
Tulfo was attacked in the performance of his job, period.