It’s no joking matter.

Bad joke. Jessica Soho (left) tells Vice Ganda (right): Rape is not a joke.

Twitter and Facebook was buzzing yesterday: GMA News pillar and anchor Arnold Clavio and other GMA News reporters castigated Vice Ganda on his jokes during his concert last May 17 on Smart Araneta Coliseum about Ms. Jessica Soho, who also is a GMA News pillar, anchor and vice president for News Programs. You can watch the video of the rape and weight jokes here.

Ms. Jessica released a press statement saying, “Rape is not a joke and should never be material for a comedy concert.” She added: “I thank all those who shared my hurt and expressed their support, but this should not be about me but about rape victims who suffer tremendously from this terrible crime. The horrors they go through are unspeakable and should never be taken lightly, especially by way of a cruel joke.”

Vice Ganda has already apologized to Ms. Jessica. “Humihingi po ako ng kapatawaran sa inyo,” Vice Ganda said in a live telecast on ABS-CBN’s noontime program ‘It’s Showtime.’ “Opo, iyon po ay isang biro na maaaring sa inyo ay hindi magandang biro at kung hindi po magandang biro ‘yon at nasaktan ko po kayo talaga, humihingi po ako ng paumanhin, patawad po,” Vice Ganda also said. “At pinapangako ko po sa inyo na hindi na kayo magiging kasama kailanman sa anumang tema ng pagtatanghal ko,” he vowed.

Arnold Clavio (left) to Vice Ganda (right): “Bakit mo binibiktima ang mga taong seryoso sa trabaho nila? Huwag mo silang kasangkapanin para lang makapagpagpatawa.”

In response to the public apology made by Vice Ganda on Wednesday regarding the “gang rape” joke he made at her expense, Ms. Jessica Soho issued the following statement: “I acknowledge the public apology given by Vice Ganda, by way of his TV program. I sincerely hope and pray that this was done with the purest intentions and determination to put this issue behind us. Just to clarify certain points about my phone conversation with him – his call came without warning as his number was not programmed in my phone directory. I told him I wasn’t feeling well and I wasn’t sure I was ready to talk to him. But I clearly remember thanking him for his call. As I’ve said, this is not about me, but about the issue of rape not being an appropriate subject matter for comedy. Rape transcends age, economic class, gender — and even one’s weight. Once again, I thank everyone who gave their support.”

On a report on the Philippine Daily Inquirer website, a top-ranking ABS-CBN executive said by phone that the network wasn’t sure it should get involved. Besides, the executive said, it had been 11 days since the concert at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “Why are they doing this only now—and isn’t it curious that all the complaints so far are coming from their (GMA 7’s) news people?”

Why are they doing this just now? The most obvious answer I could think would be they have just heard of this issue just now. This is me speculating, but perhaps they were still busy with the post-election reports. Is it curious that complaints are coming from their GMA News personalities? No, because they ARE her co-workers, her people and friends. And,  if I’m not mistaken, some journalists from other networks, even from ABS-CBN as well, have expressed their dismay and indignation over the joke.

There are others who accuse that this is just all about network rivalry. Is it? Or are we just evading the true issues and realities at hand, eager to look for other issues to blame but not the real topic that caused this situation?

Many are claiming that the GMA News personalities have blown this issue out of proportion. Supporters of Vice Ganda are saying that other people are over-reacting to the issue, and that a joke should be taken as it is: a joke. Perhaps they haven’t heard of the saying, “Jokes are half-meant.”

Is it really over-reacting? I beg to differ. These people reacting are people who have worked with and for Ms. Jessica Soho. These are her colleagues and friends. She have even mentored some of these people. Others, are her admirers, who respect her work as a credible and outstanding journalist. So I believe it is unavoidable for them to rise up, air their opinions and criticism, their indignation to the ‘joke.’ You cannot blame them for being hurt for a person they idolize, look-up to and admire. It is a natural reaction for us to defend someone we care for, someone we respect, and someone we admire. Had things gone either way, I would believe that Vice Ganda would also be defended by his friends and colleagues.

Rape is one of the most heinous crimes in the world. Something that has plagued news reports and police blotters for many years. It is not something to joke about, especially in a place like Smart Araneta Coliseum. In a blog that many are saying is an “objective” blog, the author has this to say on this point of the issue: “Evidently, the central theme of the Jessica Soho jokes was WEIGHT. Not her achievements. Not her womanhood. Not her value as a person. NOT RAPE.” At first, I really don’t know how to react on this statement. Not only it is discriminating, but also very insensitive. I’m sorry, but has our society gone that low? We now defend a joke so badly made, discriminating and directed to a respectable person?

Some would say that in comedy bars that kind of joke is a common theme, a common routine. There is a BIG difference in doing a joke in a comedy bar, and doing it in Araneta Coliseum. There is a BIG difference in the subject, timing, setting and placement of a joke. My point is, jokes should be done in the right place, right time, right audience and the right subject matter. Should Vice Ganda also poke fun of Kris Aquino’s son Josh, since it’s only a joke? A joke is not a joke if it is made in bad taste, made against the wrong subject matter, even if the intention good and is just to make people laugh.

Some would say that the jokes done by Vice Ganda to Kris Aquino, Boy Abunda and other ABS-CBN personalities are much more worse than the joke done to Ms. Jessica. The difference is the level of familiarity between the persons involved. Vice, Kris and Boy, and other ABS personalities are known to be close friends and are of the same network, thus the jokes are delivered as it is intended: no malice and misunderstanding between them because they know each other on a personal or professional level. That does not apply to Jessica Soho and Vice Ganda. Joking between friends is common, but to joke about someone you are unfamiliar with, in a concert nonetheless, particularly a joke that offensive, will definitely garner bad attention.

Every comedian should know the limits of his or her act. There is a line between comedy and discrimination. For some it may be funny, but for most it might be offensive. Learn to qualify what you say, especially if you are a influential personality. Whether it is about Jessica Soho or not, whether Vice Ganda made the joke or not, the point is: You are and should be responsible to the words you utter, whether it is a joke, a statement or anything else. Because there are things and topics that are no joking matter.

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Personal: I recommend reading Ms. Lia Mañalac-Del Castillo’s post on this issue. She made good points and drove straight to the issue at hand. Link: http://thedivajournalist.com/2013/05/29/on-vice-gandas-comedy/

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Sound bites:

“Ang hirap nga lang kung si Jessica Soho magbo-bold. Kailangan gang rape lagi. Sasabihin ng rapist, ‘Ipasa ang lechon.’ Sasabihin naman ni Jessica, ‘Eh nasaan yung apple?'” – Vice Ganda at I-Vice Ganda Mo ‘Ko concert last May 17, 2013

 “Bakit mo binibiktima ang mga taong seryoso sa trabaho nila? Huwag mo silang kasangkapanin para lang makapagpagpatawa. Bakit hindi taga-diyan sa inyo ang gawin mong subject ng jokes mo?” – Arnold Clavio, One on One with Igan kasama si Lala Roque, Super Radyo dzBB, May 28, 2013

“Naghihilom daw ang lahat ng sugat. Pero may mga sugat na hindi lamang matagal maghilom, kun’di nag-iiwan pa ng panghabambuhay na pilat, gaya po ng rape. Sa lahat ng kultura, saanmang sulok ng mundo, mula noon hanggang ngayon, isa pa rin sa pinakamatinding salot sa sangkatauhan lalo na sa mga kababaihan, ang karumal-dumal na krimen ng panggagahasa. Sa Pilipinas, hindi bababa sa tatlo ang nare-rape kada araw. Ang mas matindi pa, rape din ang numero unong krimen na bumibiktima ngayon sa mga bata. Mas mataas pa nga raw ang bilang na ito kung tutuusin, lalo na’t hindi naman lahat ng biktima, handang ihayag ang di-makataong karanasan. Sa madalas ay mapang-husga pa ang lipunan. Sa tantiya ng United Nations, sa kada 5 babae ngayon sa buong mundo, isa ang na-rape na… o maaaring ma-rape pa lamang. Sa ngayon, patuloy pa raw na tumataas ang bilang ng mga biktima ng panggagahasa. Kaya naman isa po itong paksa na hinding-hindi dapat maging laman ng mga biro.” – Jessica Soho, Post Script, State of the Nation with Jessica Soho, May 28, 2013

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“Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have.”

Don’t accuse someone of hypocrisy, especially if you have absolutely no personal knowledge of a person’s virtues, moral or religious beliefs, and principles.

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Love, Lies and the Headlines

n&otitleOf the different important issues the past few weeks, the election of Pope Francis as the new supreme pontiff, the Sabah standoff, Elections on May, the on-going campaign period, the issue on STFAP and Kristel’s suicide, and other more relevant issues such as poverty, corruption and violence, topping the headlines last Mar 20 and 21, both in mainstream media and the social media, was the Kris-James spat and the Heart-Chiz love story (or quarrel, whichever you prefer).

A brief background on the stories behind these headlines, the Kris-James spat started on the temporary protection order issued by the Makati Court denying Yap his visitation rights after a ” sexual assault” on the youngest Aquino sister. More on this video. Meanwhile, the Heart-Chiz vs. the Ongpauco parents issue started on accusations of the parents that Escudero is disrespecting them and their daughter, among other issues and accusations.

While we may consider them top showbiz headlines, it was rather disappointing that the network’s newscasts (particularly TV Patrol and 24 Oras) devoted so much airtime (28 minutes in TV Patrol? Really?) for the sit-down interview with the Aquino sisters. Meanwhile, every now and then, the Heart and Chiz story pops out in news programs (in between crime reports and national issues) when I believe that they qualify as showbiz reports (considering the reporters covering the stories are showbiz reporters) but rather, they are qualified as banner stories and national headlines. The point of showbiz-oriented talk shows such as The Buzz and Startalk was for this purpose: to grant “exclusive” and not-so-exclusive interviews on celebrities and showbiz personalities (if you consider Escudero one, well I leave that to you.) regarding their mundane lives. The purpose of newscasts such as 24 Oras and TV Patrol is to dish out news and information on the different issues and problems in our country. Yes, they may feature showbiz news, but not to the point that 2 very credible news anchors (Ted Failon and Jessica Soho) will grant interviews on such issues. That is why we have the Boy Abunda’s of the entertainment industry for them to facilitate such interviews.

My point is, as they say, “Lahat ng sobra, nakakasama.” I don’t want to speculate the reason why networks allow such interviews on their flagship news programs, but deny it or no, we all know why they do so: The Ratings Game. A little bit of trivia, do you know that TV Patrol still holds the record of having the highest rating newscast? It was when TV Patrol anchor Korina Sanchez conducted an exclusive live interview with Aquino regarding the her break-up with Joey Marquez. The September 24, 2003 broadcast, which featured Aquino’s interview, ate up most of the newscast’s airtime (like what will happen AGAIN after 10 years), making it extend beyond its 6:00pm–7:00pm timeslot. According to AGB, the broadcast, the longest in its history back then, garnered a rating of 47.2% in Mega Manila. (source: TV Patrol Wikipedia page) Maybe the management of TV Patrol wants to catch up with 24 Oras in the ratings game that they resorted to such move, maybe not. But with the rise of social media, and its continuous  involvement in the lives of the Filipino people, the more important issues that the people want to talk about rather than showbiz discussions, and with the people being more involved and intelligent, I doubt that conducting such kind of interviews will garner additional ratings. The audience will talk about it yes, but after a day or two, they will move on. So newscasts please, just stick to what you do best: reporting and exposing the issues, anomalies and other relevant stories of the day.

And, thank you for gag orders.