MANILA, Philippines - The National Press Club (NPC) on Monday took up the cudgels for Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo, saying his mauling at the hands of actor Raymart Santiago and his companions is an attack on press freedom.
In a statement, NPC President Benny Antiporda said Tulfo was only doing his job when he used his cellphone to capture actress Claudine Barretto berate a Cebu Pacific staff over their missing luggage. The incident allegedly sparked the brawl between Tulfo and Santiago's group. "
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," Antiporda said.
The NPC president said the brawl was not a simple case of misunderstanding but an example of the "culture of impunity...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."
"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," he said.
Antiporda said the Santiago couple should have sought the help of airport authorities if they felt slighted by Tulfo's actions.
"But as the video clips in YouTube show, Mr. Tulfo was brutally assaulted with even Ms. Baretto among those joining the fray," he said.
The NPC president denounced the airport authorities for their lousy handling of the situation. An amateur video uploaded on YouTube showed at least one security personnel holding on to Tulfo while he was being punched by Santiago and his group.
Antiporda reminded members of the press to be 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.