Attack on Mon Tulfo is an attack on press freedom

THE National Press Club (NPC) described as an attack on press freedom the beating that Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) columnist Ramon ‘Mon’ Tulfo suffered in the hands of actor Raymart Santiago, his wife, Claudine Barreto and their friends last Sunday at the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

“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 Benny Antiporda, the newly-elected president of the National Press Club (NPC), where Tulfo is also a lifetime member.

“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 at the moment,” 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 in 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 in beating up Tulfo to include the two showbiz personalities.

“If indeed Mr. Mon Tulfo started the fight as claimed by the Santiago couple, they should have sought the help of airport authorities and then seek legal remedy as the case may be.

“But as the video clips in YouTube show, Mr. Tulfo was brutally assaulted with even Ms. Baretto among those joining the fray,” Antiporda noted.

Antiporda also denounced the Manila International Airport Authorities for their 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.

“How much more if a bigger incident suddenly happened at our airports, how would the security personnel handle it? If last Sunday’s incident at the NAIA, the country’s premier airport, is an indication, then we have a lot to worry about,” Antiporda pointed out.

Antiporda also reminded members of the press to be always vigilant and careful in covering even seemingly ‘innocent’ events that can suddenly turn violent and ugly.

“We are here to cover news events and not to become news items ourselves,” he said.

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