ABS-CBN was called out for its perceived misrepresentation again, this time, by a lawmaker over the scene in the pilot episode of its show.
Agusan del Norte 1st District Representative Lawrence Fortun decried the show’s erroneous portrayal of Butuan City as a “hub of extremism” and “hotbed of chaos” in the first episode of ABS-CBN’s war drama “A Soldier’s Heart.”
“As a Butuanon who was born and raised in a city that was and has never been known to be a hub of extremism and terrorism, I am dismayed by the portrayal of Butuan as a hotbed of chaos,” Fortun said.
“The depiction is not only unrealistic, it is [also] offensive because it is destroying the collective efforts of the people of Butuan to promote the Home of the Balangays as a tourist destination for history and culture and a hub of opportunities,” he added.
Fortun, who happened to support ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal in Congress, urged the network to issue a disclaimer on its program about the story to prevent further damage on the city’s reputation.
Fortun is a co-author of House Resolution 639 which supports the pending renewal of the broadcast giant’s franchise which President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly threatened to drop.
Fortun suggested that ABS-CBN sends a team to Butuan to learn of its history so it could make a depiction of the place.
“We encourage to send your team over and our public information and tourism offices shall be most willing to show them around so they can see and experience for themselves the beauty of Bataan,” the lawmaker said.
He also mentioned the previous controversy ABS-CBN had with its fantasy series “Bagani,” mainly starred by celebrity couple Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil.
“The lessons of ‘Bagani’ should have taught them to be more circumspect and sensitive,” Fortun said.
From the title, the cast members to the use of a Kapampangan language, the fantaserye attracted a wave of criticisms from government agencies and critics on social media.
The production team faced accusations of cultural appropriation, the questionable casting of actors with Eurocentric features and misuse of the Kapampangan language.
What did ABS-CBN say?
Following Fortun’s statement, ABS-CBN immediately issued an apology to Fortun, noting that the scene involving Butuan is fictitious.”
“While the incident portrayed in the series was fictitious, there was mention of the city name. We would like to assure them that there was no deliberate intention to portray Butuan City negatively in the show,” the statement read.
“We acknowledge that Butuan is one of the most beautiful and peaceful cities in the country,” it added.
The new war drama “A Soldier’s Heart” debuted last Monday, January 20, and its first episode follows the story of Alex (Gerald Anderson), an IT expert who assists the military to track the online activities of a rebel group in Butuan City.
Alex is caught in an ambush by the rebel group, led by his brother Sal (Sid Lucero), in the area.
The issue received mixed reactions from viewers. One user noted the irony when the mere mention of “Manila” in international movies is lauded even if it’s done in a bad light.
Others commented that Filipinos will continue to watch ABS-CBN shows regardless of the controversies.