Two female lawmakers and a labor policy center have joined calls in demanding a public apology from a top Hong Kong publication and one of its columnists over a recent article that made a racial slur against Filipinos in relation to the dispute over the Spratly islands.
In a statement Sunday, Sen. Pia Cayetano said Filipinos "deserve no less than a formal public apology" for an article by Chip Tsao entitled "The War at Home," which appeared on the March 27 edition of HK Magazine.
In his column, Tsao depicted the Philippines as a "nation of servants" not worthy of claiming the Spratlys islands from China, as the latter employs hundreds of thousands of Filipino domestic helpers on very low wages.
"Instead of contributing to intelligent discussions on ways to resolve the Spratlys dispute, Tsao only succeeded in eliciting hatred and sowing more confusion not only among Filipinos but maybe even among his fellow Chinese who are not aware of the intricacies of the issue," Cayetano was quoted as saying.
"Let's not dignify Tsao's views by not stooping down to his level. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be bullied by people with narrow minds like him. HK Magazine and Tsao must apologize for insulting Filipinos, and they should pledge not to commit this mistake again," she said.
"Our being a poor nation does not diminish the validity of our historical and legal claim to the Spratlys. In the proper forum, this dispute will eventually be threshed out and resolved. Ignorance, hatred and racial bias are the last things we need in approaching this long-standing controversy," she added.
Cayetano also said that the Philippine claim to the Spratlys "is as valid as the other claims being pushed by other nations. It does not mean that we're disregarding the claims of others. We respect their claim inasmuch as they should acknowledge ours."
Cayetano added that should Tsao make good on his "whimsical threat" to fire her Filipino househelp over the Spratlys dispute, she said she is confident that other employers in Hong Kong, including foreign expatriates and fellow Filipinos, would be more than willing to take her in.
"I'll personally appeal on my Filipino and foreigner friends based in Hong Kong to hire her. I'm sure there are many more enlightened minds out there willing to take her in. Filipino domestic helpers are very much in demand in Hong Kong precisely because of their efficiency and positive ethic at work," she was quoted as saying.
"We should be proud that millions of OFWs are able to serve the world, whether as managers, laborers, caregivers or medical professionals. There's nothing to be ashamed of as long as we're earning an honest living without having to step on the dignity of others," she added.
Former labor undersecretary Susan Ople meanwhile also denounced Tsao for using Filipino maid as "pawn" in Spratly controversy. She said, in a statement released by Blas F. Ople Policy Center, that the Hong Kong journalist “should be blacklisted as an undesirable foreign employer.”
Ople called on the Philippine Consulate on Hong Kong particularly its Office of the Labor Attaché to look into the work conditions of "Luisa."
"His published declaration that he gave her Filipino maid a harsh lecture and warned her to tell every one of her compatriots that Spartly Islands belong to China or she'd lose her wages, is already a sign of an unstable, irresponsible and racist employer who resorts to verbal abuse even for perceived bilateral and historic infractions. Luisa deserves a sane and more humane employer while he deserves to clean up his own filth," said Ople.
The former labor official expressed personal concern for the Filipino housemaid's safety and health and urged the labor attaché to investigate the matter. She said if possible, put Tsao on a list of unworthy foreign employers.
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center also called on the Philippine Consulate to call the attention of Tsao’s magazine's publisher and editorial board for the columnists “provocative and bigoted write-up.”
"The household is not the place to resolve multiple claims to the Spratly Islands, and Filipino domestic workers should not suffer because of it," said the Center in the statement.
The center also said that such Tsao’s actions were “a concrete example of racial and political intolerance.”
"Apparently, Mr. Tsao and his friends think they are the more supreme race, and are now using what should be strictly an employer-employee relationship to drive home this point. We must not allow them to use our workers as pawns and hostages as a consequence of our just and historical claim," said the center in the statement.
'Disgusting, derogatory, vile'
Akbayan Rep. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros-Baraquel also protested over Tsao's article, saying the magazine should apologize immediately.
"This disgusting, derogatory, and vile remark can only come from dim-witted and mediocre writing. The magazine should apologize straightaway. The article reflects the kind of attitude that promotes abuses against Filipina workers," Hontiveros said.
She said Tsao's story should not have been published, owing to its defamatory nature characterized by racial discrimination against Filipinos in general, and domestic helpers in particular.
"Chip Tsao should find another profession. He should leave the Spratlys issue to the diplomats and writing to real writers because clearly he has neither competence nor talent in foreign affairs and in writing," Hontiveros added.
"When you make fun of a particular group, you expose them to abuses. Wittingly or unwittingly, you end up supporting acts of intolerance and abuses," she added.
"Filipina domestic workers should hold a one-day strike to tell the likes of Chip Tsao who's the real master of the HK economy. If all Filipino workers in HK would strike, the HK economy would grind to a halt without us having to invade the territory," she said.
She said Filipinos are not asking for political correctness, just professional treatment.
"Domestic work is a decent job. It's not just done by hired Filipina domestic workers, it has also been the function of mothers of all nationality, in Hong Kong and China and elsewhere. It should be treated with respect," she said, adding that by insulting Filipina domestic workers Tsao has also insulted his own mother. With a report from Delon Porcalla, The Philippine Star