Philippines reacts to furor over racist BBC skit

As expected, the Philippine government rushed to save the reputation of our country’s overseas Filipino workers after news broke out about the racist, anti-Filipino comedy skit on BBC. High officials (and cause-oriented groups) made the following reactions and statements:

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said:

Sec. [Alberto] Romulo has to meet Ambassador [Peter] Beckingham on the issue of the BBC.

For his part, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. reported that:

The Department has acted very quickly on this issue. Our embassy in London has already lodged a written protest with the regulatory agencies in the UK, specifically the Commission on Communications.

Number 2, they have written to the Mayor of London as well as the Secretary on the Protection of Women and to BBC itself protesting the slur on our domestic workers in the UK.

In addition to that, the Philippine embassy in London has already discussed this with the Filipino community. I think they are going to launch a silent vigil around the BBC to protest this action. We have also launched an email campaign among our OFWs to bring to the attention of the necessary authorities this incident. Sec Romulo stepped out for a while because he has summoned the British Ambassador to bring this matter officially to the attention of the Embassy.

Here’s her speech at the launch today of the GFMD in Manila:

Renato M. Reyes Jr., spokesman of the country’s biggest umbrella of cause-oriented groups, said that

The BBC sketch is a painful reminder of the real plight of Filipino migrants which is often ignored by the Philippine government

GMANews.tv further reports that “aside from demanding the BBC to issue a public apology to the Filipino community in the United Kingdom and the Filipino people, [Bayan] will ask the network to stop the airing of the said offensive and racist comedy sketch.”

The British embassy in Manila has also issued a statement dousing possible calls for drastic measures such as possible downgrade of Manila-London ties, saying that:

The BBC has editorial independence, and views expressed/portrayed by the BBC are completely independent from those of the UK government.

Filipinos in the UK are an important part of British society, making invaluable contributions to our scientific and service sectors, and enriching UK culture.

Irony: Manila hosts the second Global Forum on Migration and Development later this month.

True to form, President Arroyo says one thing and says another in the same paragraph. She says her government is not pushing labor export (haha!) but debunks her point immediately after. Take a good look at her speech today at the launch of the GFMD:

Secretary Romulo and Undersecretary Conejos have put this global forum in the context of overall development. Let me put it in the context of what we are experiencing in the world today.

As we face the most significant global economic and financial crisis in a generation, the poor feel it most.

I direct our economic team to work hard on all fronts to manage inflationary pressures and provide a safety net to those hit hardest by these global developments. I also direct… I direct them to draw up a contingency plan to cushion the impact of a possible economic recession of the developed economies on the ordinary people of the Philippines. Possible, but you hope it will not happen, but it’s important to have a contingency plan. And I direct the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas to draw up a similar plan for overseas Filipinos.

Migration as pointed out in the presentation of Undersecretary Conejos is a growing global phenomenon.

We have 8 million Filipinos abroad but it’s only a fraction of the 191 migrants all over the world. Overseas Filipinos however in our country continue to play a critical role in the country’s economic and social stability.

You know, when I was in New Zealand, they were telling me that they have an even bigger percentage of New Zealanders who work abroad than the Philippines. The difference is that mom and pop send their expatriates money abroad to help them with additional income. In our case, our overseas Filipinos send us money here and help their families, their communities and our economy.

And I might also add that one very, very well-known and well-paid Filipino working overseas says that we should begin to call our overseas Filipinos expatriates, because the nature of their job is increasingly more on skilled professions. And they should be called expatriates because expatriates usually get higher pay than if you just call them workers.

The government and the people honor our overseas Filipinos, whether you call them OFWs, OCWs, as Dante Ang likes to call them Overseas Filipino Investors. And I agree that we should begin to call them expatriates rather than OFWs. But in any case, we honor them for their sacrifice and dedication to their work, their family and their nation.

We welcome their contribution. But we are working towards the day when Filipinos no longer need to go abroad for a job. For the day that overseas work is just another career option and not the only choice they have to earn a living. This Filipino I’m talking about that they should be called expatriates rather than OFWs is working abroad because it’s a career choice. He’s one of the highest paid persons in his profession in the whole world.

Meanwhile, while we’re working for that day when for everybody it will be just a career choice and not a necessity to go abroad, on the basis of our expatriates’ contributions and on our nation’s humanitarian responsibilities to our people wherever they are, whether they are here or abroad, our government works doubly hard to strengthen the protection of our workers.

Our policy is not to export labor. Our policy is to protect our workers when the market conditions both abroad and in the Philippines give them an opportunity to work abroad. And it is in this context today, in this day and age and its particular time in the economic development of the whole world, that it is our honor to host the Global Forum on Migration and Development this month.

So, I congratulate Secretary Romulo and his team for the preparations and I hope that everybody contributes to making this a success not only for the sake of the organizers but for the sake of the Filipinos whom we are proud of and who make a good name for our country all over the world.

And as we continue to rage over the BBC program’s racism and the Arroyo government’s hypocrisy, more work needs to be done to protect OFWs, 60,000 of whom face deportation from Europe while thousands of others suffer from indignities in the Middle East.

6 Comments

  1. tonyo

    I didn’t miss a beat.

    The “joke” is not a funny skit. Its racist. The first time I saw it, I knew it was racist.

    The thing is that this is a BBC program, and the BBC knows that not only Brits watch it. BBC is a powerful media outlet that influence public perception and in this case, it gives out an impression that Filipina domestic helpers are mere sex objects.

  2. Anthony

    It’s objective is in highlighting the stupidity of treating people as sex objects. That’s the whole point of the Englishman character.

    Regardless of whether or not it’s funny, the skit is actually an anti-racist and anti-misogynist commentary. I think most of the offended people don’t realise this because Filipino humour and British humour operate on different levels.

  3. tonyo

    You cannot tell people already offended by this episode that our feelings are misplaced. You cannot tell me that it is not racist, because it is.

  4. sahjid_21

    I have watched that comedy movie, that insulted us. For Filipino people especially Filipino maids workin in other countries… That’s not a good joke, that is not a comedy, that’s insultness… That offended us. For BBC or any media please don’t make plays like that!!!

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