PH slams U.S. show's portrayal of 'unconventional' PH president

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines said it "strongly" protested the upcoming episode of the American TV series Madam Secretary about a fictional "unconventional new president" of the Philippines making a pass at the US Secretary of State. 

"The Philippine embassy in Washington DC wrote to CBS Corporation today [Monday], March 6, 2017, to strongly protest the highly negative depiction of a character purported to be the Philippine president in the next episode of the TV series Madam Secretary," the embassy said in a statement sent to media on Tuesday, March 7.

In the Madam Secretary episode set to be aired on Sunday, March 12, fictional Philippine President Datu Andrada makes improper advances toward the female US Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord, another fictional character. 

McCord ended up punching Andrada in the face.

The Philippine embassy said: "While Madam Secretary is a work of fiction, it tracks and mirrors current events. It is, therefore, inevitable that its depiction of world leaders will have an impact on how its audience views the real personages and the countries they represent."

'Highly negative portrayal'

"This highly negative portrayal of our head of state not only casts doubt on the respectability of the Office of the Philippine President but also denigrates that way our nation navigates foreign affairs. It also tarnishes the Philippines' longstanding advocacy for women's rights and gender equality," the embassy added.

"In view of the injurious effects that this program will have on the interests of the Philippines and the Filipino people, the Philippine embassy urgently calls on CBS to take the necessary corrective actions," the embassy said.

The Madam Secretary episode comes as the Philippines already suffers a bad image abroad because of alleged human rights abuses in the Duterte administration's war on drugs. (READ: HRW: PH risks being lumped with North Korea, Syria)

The real-life Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, has also been accused of disrespecting women, as when he made a rape joke in April 2016 and catcalled a female reporter a month later.

The former US ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, criticized Duterte for making the rape joke in April 2016, prompting Duterte to call Goldberg "bakla"(gay).

This had complicated ties between Manila and Washington despite their decades-old relations.

Philippine authorities have a history of protesting negative portrayals in Hollywood of Filipinos.

In 2009, the Philippine government demanded an apology from actor Alec Baldwin for joking about wanting to get a Filipina mail-order bride.

The producers of the top-rated Desperate Housewives show also apologized in 2007 after a lead character put down Filipino doctors.

Madam Secretary, which revolves around the life of a fictional US Secretary of State, regularly depicts other countries, foreign leaders, and diplomats, but other countries have not lodged formal protests with the show on how their countries or their politicians are depicted. – with a report from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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