What do you get for violating 1) the Broadcast Code of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), 2) the Journalist’s Code of Ethics of the National Press Club (NPC), 3) R.A. 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012), and 4) Revised Penal Code?
Two weeks ago, radio host Erwin Tulfo lambasted Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, a former military chief and member of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association (PMAAA), for not granting him an interview. Though Tulfo had well-meaning intentions at first–i.e. he sought Bautista’s support in the implementation of the Magna Carta for the Poor–his spiel quickly devolved into an undignified tirade where he threw expletives at Bautista and threatened to slam his head into a toilet bowl. This tirade was later uploaded to Tulfo’s Facebook Page.
While Tulfo later admitted that his remarks had gone too far, he nonetheless asserted his right to criticize officials. But does an unanswered interview really merit such a spirited tirade on-air? Let’s take a look at some of the core principles that Tulfo violated.
By insulting and threatening Bautista on-air, Tulfo failed to uphold Section 4, Section 5, and Section 11 of the Journalist’s Code of Ethics of the NPC: he gave remarks which shamed the private reputation of Bautista to no benefit of public interest; he let his personal motives and interests detract him from properly conducting his duties as a journalist; and he failed to maintain the dignity and decency befitting his profession. With regard to the Broadcast Code of the KBP, Tulfo violated the sanction against personal attacks on the “honesty, integrity, or personal qualities of an identified person”, i.e. Bautista, and the institutions which he is part of, i.e. the PMAAA, to no benefit of public interest. Tulfo’s rants even carried over to Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP), thereby including the general membership of the PMAAA. In addition to his position as a journalist, the weight of Tulfo’s remarks are made all the worse by his being a public figure: how will his denouncement of a veteran commander of anti-terrorist operations affect the image of the Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support (ACT CIS) Partylist?
Regardless of Tulfo’s supposed championing of the poor, the Journalists’ Code of Ethics protects all “identified persons” from baseless acts of maligning. In any case, both active and retired soldiers were enraged by Tulfo’s remarks and asserted that Bautista’s character was “beyond reproach.” Indeed, Bautista is a seasoned military commander who has had extensive experience fighting terrorist groups. During the siege of Marawi in 2017, he was the overall ground commander. Now, as mentioned previously, he is the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Excuse him if he couldn’t get back to Tulfo immediately.
Given these, the PMAAA signed Board Resolution No. 19-15 on June 7. This resolution declared Tulfo as a persona non grata, i.e. an unwelcome person, literally a “person without grace”: 1) Tulfo’s presence or participation, physical or by proxy, shall not be appreciated in all activities inside or outside areas of jurisdiction by the association or any of its chapter members and affiliate organizations”; and 2) Tulfo has lost privileges and courtesies granted to responsible media practitioners (i.e. the military and security detail which protects him and the Tulfo family). Additionally, Tulfo has yet to surrender his firearms to the Philippine National Police (PNP), since he his license for them expired on March 3rd. All this disgrace in the wake of the 2019 Party List elections; how can the Tulfo family fend off the various dangers to their safety, exacerbated by Tulfo’s remarks, without a military and security unit?
Finally, on Friday last week, Bautista responded to Tulfo’s remarks and their consequences: he stipulated that 1) Tulfo must publish a public apology, not less than half a page, on different media platforms, broadsheets, and radio stations; 2) in repair for the damage done to Bautista and the institutions which he is a member of, Tulfo must make a donation of at least P300,000 to a military organization.
So much for Tulfo’s right to “criticize officials.” While he may have acted as an individual attacking another individual, nonetheless he also involved the institutions which he and Bautista are part of, respectively (i.e. PMAAA and ACT CIS Partylist). In his apology, posted on his Facebook Page on June 11, he regrets the loss of his family’s security detail and is currently struggling to live among death threats and “badmouthing” from Bautista’s friends and supporters. While we can hope that Tulfo has learned the consequences of his petty rant (he exceeded Bautista’s requirement of a public apology at least half a page long), he made sure to cap off his statement with the sentiment that the Tulfos are but little people championing other little people: political, always political, even in an apology.