The bigger brother
KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2014 - 12:00am

On the last night of the month of May, I found myself socializing at Captain’s Bar of the beloved institution that is (and soon it will be “was”) the Mandarin Hotel in Makati. It was the farewell party for Kipling’s Cigar & Single Malt Bar, also an institution among cigar smokers and single-malt whisky aficionados. Count me in among the second category, a habitué for over a decade now of that endearing venue managed by the equally endearing Scotslady who knows her malts, Madame Barbara Cumagun.

The Mandarin’s lease had run out, and it will be replaced with a presumably more profitable residential condo tower, never mind emo considerations over heritage edifices primarily due to all the happy memories shared by generations.

In any case, at some point in the evening I found myself sitting across a fellow lush, heh heh — actually one of the men whose footsteps leading into the turf of special wee drams of the “water of life” have inspired me to token replication.  

Another fellow imbiber, Peng Perez de Tagle, together with his better half Vickie, and I raised our glasses for toasts across the table with TV broadcast kingpin and man-about-town-and-country Freddie Garcia. Before he pulled himself away to offer stage entertainment that was certainly better (by way of song) than a certain Senator’s more recent attempt in a supposedly more august hall, I managed to ask Freddie if he could help a nephew get into Pinoy Big Brother.

The guy’s tall and good-looking, a baseball athlete of De La Salle Taft, I said, and he’s expressed a desire to join a future cast of PBB’s seasonal housemates. Except that he thinks he still has to polish his Tagalog, er, Filipino.

As my Big Bro since the ’70s, Freddie Garcia nodded with his usual smile and said that of course he could try, that is, if he remembers after our night of Glenmorangie 18’s et al.

We clinked glasses again and I left it that, albeit wondering where and when our next common venue would be for our kind of nocturnal habitué-ing, Little did I know that a few days later, the PBB would figure again among my disparate threads of communication.

On June 5, our MTRCB e-mail loop received an alert from fellow board member Leah Navarro — on how the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) was “alarmed over (the PBB) reality show’s alleged coercion, exploitation of women.” Part of the PCW’s statement read: 

“The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) is calling the attention of a local reality television program where a female contestant was compelled to pose nude for a painting.

“In the June 4, 2014 episode of ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Big Brother All-In, ‘Big Brother’ often called as ‘Kuya’ challenged 23-year-old Jayme Jalandoni of Parañaque City to pose nude for a painting, which is a part of their weekly task.

“Said weekly task, dubbed as ‘Yes We Can’ episode, seeks to test the contestants’ determination and will to perform unexpected challenges, providing with only three ‘No’ options. Should the contestants exhaust all three ‘No’ options, ‘Kuya’ will automatically cut their budget for the following week.

“Jalandoni initially said no to the idea of posing nude but ‘Kuya’s’ influence, although giving the former two choices, left the 23-year-old with no option but to give in.

“Kuya’s’ exercise of authority over her is evidently suggestive; placing the female contestant under pressure amid the latter’s rejection of the challenge.

“Jalandoni’s initial reactions flashed fear and refusal as evidenced by her crying. ‘Kuya,’ however, was insistent, even citing the artistic merit of a painter.

“PCW sees nothing wrong with women posing nude for art but it should be a woman’s free choice to do so.

“The commission waves caution as “Kuya” violates her right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.

“The episode showed the broadcast media’s coldhearted perpetuation of exploitation of women on national TV. No individual, television show or entity has the right to cause discrimination, insecurity, discomfort, offense or humiliation to any woman.

“… Meantime, the commission is calling on the MTRCB to look into the said episode and take necessary actions…”  

And that’s what the board did, quickly, requesting for the TOA (taped-on-air) episode/s, reviewing these, thence chair Atty. Toto Villareal forming an adjudication committee composed of board members (BMs) Atty. Noel del Prado, Atty. Jojo Salomon, Marra Lanot, and Ma. Carmen S. Musngi.  

BM Fr. Nick Cruz weighed in: “Dear Leah, Good work. I agree 100 percent with your advocacy. I hope MTRCB will do something about this.”

BM Robert Andrews wrote: “I believe the issue here is not only on gender sensitivity and images of women, but more on sexual exploitation. / Force:make (someone) do something against their will / Make:cause (something) to exist or come about; bring about / Pressure:attempt to persuade or coerce (someone) into doing something. / Considering these definitions, would you consider this sexual exploitation?”

A mandatory conference was called by the chair for June 11, involving the PCW and PBB representatives, the MTRCB adjudication committee members, and the Ateneo Human Rights Center, which last April had entered into a MOU with MTRCB, under which AHRC “shall provide educational and informational resources in rights-related issues pertaining to, aong others, television programs.”

Meanwhle, the issue appeared to have taken on a life of its own, with various reports, particularly online, headlining such:

“As MTRCB summons ‘PBB’ execs, Sen. Pia says show ‘crossed the line” (InterAksyon.com, June 10, 2014)

The report quoted a statement issued by Sen. Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Family Relations and Gender Relations: “I am dismayed that one of the challenges was for the female housemates to pose nude. This is an assault to the dignity of the women housemates. Asking a woman to consider posing nude in such a situation — where her acceptance to perform the challenge is made in exchange for points or benefits for herself or her housemates — is tantamount to coercion.”

She added: “We must take note that aside from Jayme, another female housemate, Michelle Gumabao, was also forced into accepting the nude painting challenge. Even if their team eventually backed out, the violation had been done.”

For the sake of argument, it was pointed out that the overall theme of the PBB episodes could be said to be “the clash between faith (the pivotal housemate was a young evangelical girl, belonging to a very religious home) and freedom to assert one’s views under a notion of trust for Big Brother.

“The pivotal housemate, who sincerely believed that posing in the nude for a painting (granting the same to be in good taste and with no show of exploitation) is not pornography, eventually decided to say no to posing after hearing her father invoke the tenets of the Christian faith. Big Brother then went on to present the seeming conflict between the 4th commandment (honoring one’s parents) and using one’s freedom. Three other housemates who were supposed to join her in posing nude then decided to say no also — edified by the example of the teener. Big Brother respected their decision and the anchor ended by describing the triumph of faith in this case.”  

BM Leah argued back: “I believe that is the fear of the PCW — that the demand to pose nude was meant to elicit more viewership and excitement over the task at the expense of the housemate, that the more noble intention would go flying right over the heads of most viewers, and that even if the girl ultimately refused, the dare went far beyond the boundaries of gender sensitivity.

“If the contention that the housemate was pressured and then cried is true, then PCW can claim that Big Brother was misogynous and insensitive even if her refusal prevailed and was praised by him in the end.”

In any case, the mandatory conference was conducted last Wednesday, with the chair verbalizing an appeal before the start — which to my mind (at the risk of sounding sipsip) set the proper tone and rational stance for the discussion. 

Excerpts:

“Today is a day of reality. Our subject is a reality show, the law protecting women is a reality, the law protecting the young is a reality, the law protecting viewers is a reality, the Constitutional dicta upholding the dignity of the human person, protecting the person of every woman and child, safeguarding the family, and ensuring the free exercise of religion ARE ALL A REALITY. 

“I personally appeal to all in this conference to consider these realities. And they are serious.…

“This conference must not end though in mere pinpointing.  It must result, by its end today, and granting that there may have been a failure at self-regulation here, in the owning up of responsibility and the institution and implementation of concrete and immediately implementable measures. We owe that to the Filipino audience, the Filipino found worldwide which ABS-CBN has committed to serve, and particularly, the women of our country.…

“I want to take this development positively. Like Kuya, I wish to challenge the network and the show to muster all their good qualities, skills, experience, and resources to make sure that this does not happen again….

“Gender-sensitivity and over-all sensitivity to the viewer and in this case, even toward the so-called housemates, are no mere slogans or even legal principles. They are to be lived. This is our duty of the present moment.”  

After hearing all sides, the MTRCB committee required the submission of remedial measures by ABS-CBN Corporation; directed the respondent network “to immediately issue a public apology, as said network has so proposed…”; appoint a gender focal person for all its television programs (Atty. Monalisa Manalo); “enter into, with this board, a three-month period of close collaboration” having to do with “further concrete remedial and self-regulatory measures to address all concerns of gender sensitivity and overall audience-sensitivity…” ; submit the subject-program to per-episode post-review…; and submit its creative staff… to a gender sensitivity seminar to be organized by the MTRCB, in coordination with PCW under its chair, Hon. Remedios Rikken… Respondent network also committed “to impose an ‘SPG’ rating when warranted for certain episodes…”

All well and good then. I must add here, however, that much as I join the rest of the board in appreciating the reactions and inputs from the public, especially through social media, still quite regrettable is a certain degree of lynch-mob mentality as manifested by outright calls for severe condemnation.

This becomes particularly true with regard to big-ticket institutions, establishments, and individuals. Whenever something prospectively questionable is raised, many are those who are quick to condemn without first studying, or even bothering to hear about, all possible angles, perspectives and viewpoints.

The mandatory conference showed the way to sentient, responsible, and mature discourse.

A youthful friend of mine also commented, chortling: “Big brother answers to another big brother. Meta!”

Yes, kinda funny. I just had to reply: “Bigger bro protects kids, primarily. As well as their pay-rents. And specific groups, like women, cultural communities and religious orgs that may be abused or defamed. That’s how the bigger picture is.”

 

BIG BIG BROTHER BROTHER BRVBAR FREDDIE GARCIA KUYA NUDE WOMEN
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