Sunday, October 14, 2007

Filipino/a Outrage Over Desperate Housewives Incident

Joseph Pimentel and Cynthia De Castro write for Asianjournal.com:

LOS ANGELES -- After an online petition for a public apology signed by over 90,000 outraged Filipinos, a flood of phone calls, voice mails and emails, ABC Desperate Housewives (DH) Publicist Chandler Hayes issued a public apology on October 3 in response to the overwhelming clamor over an insensitive remark made about Filipino doctors on the season premiere of DH.

“The producers of DH and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offense caused by the brief reference in the season premiere. There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines. As leaders in broadcast diversity, we are committed to presenting sensitive and respectful images of all communities featured in our programs.”

According to reports ABC will consider re-editing the episode for future telecasts. However, Filipinos are not satisfied. After the apology was given, it seems that it’s still not enough.

“I am morally offended by the statement because it betrayed the racial prejudice and denigrates the excellent performance of world-class Filipino doctors in the US,” said Senator Miriam Santiago, whose sister is a doctor working in Los Angeles.

The Senator now urge the Foreign Affairs Department to lodge a formal protest with the US government.

The Philippine Medical Association is also not satisfied with the Studio’s apology and still pushing through with a formal complaint to be sent to the World Medical Association. FilAm physicians stressed that an apology or even a possible re-editing was not enough for ABC. They said there should be an on-air retraction and acknowledge the contribution of Filipino medical practitioners and health professionals to the US Another demand was for ABC to provide training in cultural diversity among its creative staff to prevent such slurs from happening again.

Many Fil-Am communities throughout the US are meeting to undertake local mass actions against ABC and the Disney Corporation. A protest action is planned in New York on Friday (US time) to pressure ABC and DH to make such amends

In San Francisco, a Philippine Anti-Defamation Coalition of NaFFAA is being formed with members of the Philippine Medical Society, the Philippine Nurses Asociation, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (California Chapter) and other groups and individuals who were educated in the Philippines and who feel that the ABC episode will have a profound negative on the public perception of them.

The problem is deeply rooted. Unless such insensitive creative professionals change their view of the world, these offensive attacks would most certainly persist.

Such mobilization against the tide of hatred is very much welcome. It sends a stern message to these ignorant, callous, and insensitive individuals that Filipinos, most especially, won’t take this sitting down.

The slur uttered against Philippine medical schools on Sunday’s episode of the TV show DH has caused an uproar around the world prompting a response even from Malacañang Palace.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the TV show belittled the abilities of Filipino doctors and sent a message that Philippine medical schools produced “substandard, inferior” medical practitioners.

The offending remark was made by one of the show’s desperate housewives, Susan Mayer (played by American actress Teri Hatcher). In one scene Mayer asks for the credentials of the gynecologist who examined her and told her that she was approaching menopause.

Mayer said, “Can I check those diplomas because I just want to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines?” The premiere episode, which has been posted on YouTube.com, drew criticisms from the Filipino community on the Internet.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon has proposed a ban on the popular TV series. Biazon, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, said he doesn’t watch the show himself but pointed out that a ban on the show or a boycott by Filipino viewers are possible responses.

Filipino Outrage

The on-line petition garnered four thousand signatures on the morning of Oct. 2 and grew to over forty thousand the next day. Despite the apology, people continued to sign the petition. As of press time, the petition has grown to over 90,000 signatures.

Los Angeles Consul General Mary Jo Aragon, New York Consul General Cecilia B. Rebong, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), Philippine Senators, and Philippine Medical Association of America (PMA) were among many individuals and groups who wrote formal letters to ABC, demanding an apology. Click here for the rest of the story.

[editor's note: There are estimated to be least 22,000 Filipino physicians in the U.S.  These doctors have competently served millions of Americans including U.S. Presidents Bush and Clinton (White House Physican Dr. Connie Mariano) and former President Ronald Reagan (anesthesiologist Dr. Honorato Nicodemus).]

bh

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