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MANILA, Philippines - Even as the NAIA airport police is still wrapping up its investigation into Sunday’s Terminal 3 brawl, celebrity couple Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barretto, and friend Eduardo Atilano, filed a complaint Wednesday at the Pasay City criminal investigation division against journalist Ramon Tulfo for physical injuries and child abuse.
Reacting to the charges, Tulfo was puzzled by the "child abuse" charge, which Claudine claimed in earlier interviews arose from the "trauma" suffered by her children who witnessed the brawl. Tulfo's defenders had said it was Claudine who made the scene that started the chain of events leading to the brawl, and therefore the newsman, who was simply documenting a public matter, could not be blamed for such alleged child trauma.
Tulfo on Monday had filed charges of physical injuries and grave coercion against the couple, who along with several friends were seen on amateur video ganging up on him, after Tulfo refused to hand over his cellular phone used to document Claudine’s outburst against Cebu Pacific ground staff.
At first, Tulfo said he started documenting the outburst because he had been following up the reports on bad practices of low-cost carriers and had overheard Claudine complain about her offloaded baggage at the Cebu Pacific counter. She was scolding---some witnesses said, cursing--Charisse Bocboc and Kristine Anne Ilagan. Later, however, Tulfo said he was drawn to the abusive manner with which Claudine scolded the employees.
Guards came in when brawl in full swing
Airport police, meanwhile, started to keep a tight lip on the incident, saying the matter is now in court, but sources revealed that three Lanting agency security guards manning their post at the airside arrival area had submitted their affidavits on Tuesday evening at the APD headquarters.
The same sources said the affidavits indicated, however, that the guards did not witness how the melee began, and were only at the scene when the brawl was in full swing. It was more or less the same scene captured in the amateur video posted on Youtube, which Raymart and Claudine insist does not capture the whole story.
The couple insist Tulfo had punched Raymart and kicked Claudine when they sought to get his phone, and this drove Raymart mad.
The guards said in their affidavit that they tried to separate the group, pointing to Atilano as the man in pink shirt seen repeatedly lunging forward to hit Tulfo, who was on the floor, caught in a headlock at one point by Raymart. Guards also had a hard time reining in Claudine, who kept approaching and hitting Tulfo. The newsman had said any blow that may have hit Claudine came from that instinctive flailing motion, as he was struggling to break free of the headlock.
Witnesses who have come forward, although not yet issued sworn statements, gave conflicting accounts: one version said Tulfo had apparently hit Raymart, and later Claudine, as the couple tried to get his phone; but another version said Raymart had punched Tulfo first.
Airline staff’s version
The same airport sources said, meanwhile, that female security guard Eden Modejas had said in her sworn statement that she saw Barretto berating Cebu Pacific ground staff Bocboc and Ilagan.
On Sunday night, airport police took the handwritten statements of the two airline employees, which will become part of the evidence of police authorities.
Part of their statement says the actress refused to listen to their explanation on why her luggage was offloaded in Caticlan, nor their assurance that the luggage was coming in on the next flight which was arriving shortly, and rebuked them loudly.
Earlier on Monday, Cebu Pacific vice president Candace Iyog explained in media interviews the offloading was a safety measure resorted to, as wind conditions at the Caticlan airport necessitated reducing the load factor. She conceded, however, that the airline had not informed those affected by the offloading, including Claudine, who kept saying the medication of a child in the group was in the checked-in luggage that did not arrive with them on the same flight.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police thru the PNP-Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agency (PNP-SOSIA) has ordered Lanting Security Agency to explain within 48 hours why their security personnel assigned at the airside area of terminal 3 failed to prevent the scuffle.