Thrilla in NAIA: was the Tulfo-Raymart-Claudine brawl really all about inadequate airport security?

It is quite ironic that in a police state such as the Philippines where around every corner and at every doorway, armed security forces stand ready to fire high-powered shotguns and assault rifles at any suspicious-looking loser, one or the other politician is now weighing in with their opinion of how slack security had recently been at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3. This is following a rather amusing brawl between hot-headed B-List celebrities Ramon Tulfo, Raymart Santiago, and Claudine Barretto the other day there. According to Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla who is — get this — “chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Services” the incident could’ve been managed a bit better by NAIA personnel: “Both parties could have been pacified and there could have been no injuries if only the airport security personnel acted promptly and properly…”

I seriously doubt that a lack of security measures is what is really the key issue underlying this recent media circus. NAIA is a fortress compared to other airports around the world. Security checks, X-ray equipment, a huge contingent of manual bag-searchers, and ubiquitous uniformed and plain-clothed staff are already deployed at the NAIA. But it seems that no security measure can mitigate the risks presented by the bad manners and bad breeding of self-important Filipino politicians, celebrities, and dollar-waving “I’m-an-American-Citizen” balikbayans.

The incident is a microcosm of Philippine society. Outside NAIA within the teeming megalopolis that surrounds it, there are more traffic officers visible per kilometre of road than most modern cities. Yet traffic remains more gridlocked and, when moving, far more chaotic than in other cities where one can go about an entire day and not spot a single cop. There are more janitors per square foot of building space. Yet toilet facilities are among the most appalling in the civilised world. Red tape and excessive control measures choke just about every transaction — from paying bills, getting a driver’s license, and paying income tax. And yet banal fraud and thievery have come to define modern Philippine society.

My colleague Ilda wrote about what is behind this key component of the Filipino condition a while back

The society is quite extraordinary in the sense that simple rules and regulations whether on the road or in the work place are for the most part ignored. This is because each individual has this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. It is why you see people cutting you off on highway lanes on the road or pushing their way in lines ahead of the rest in a queue. In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.

Unfortunately the collective results of a society known for such bravado and machissmo quite simply disappoint. This is because much of what Filipino chest-thumping is built on rests upon rickety social stilts. The lack of an illustrious martial tradition in Filipino heritage is reflected in the country’s pipsqueak military force which now finds its testicles bulging out of its throat as it faces the Chinese Armada in the West Philippine Sea. Upon virtually one man, boxing champ Manny Pacquiao, and one woman, reality show star Jessica Sanchez, rests virtually the entire concept of “national pride” of the Filipino people. And on a single case involving trumped-up charges versus a single man — Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona — rests a national illusion that graft and corruption will finally be “solved” in this sad Third World basketcase.

As such, an inflated national ego does tend to do a lot more damage in a society starved for objective evidence of real collective achievement

There seems to be something wrong with a psyche that makes us so vulnerable to getting upset or offended so easily. Most Filipinos get offended so easily from a perceived indiscretion and are often unable to move on to something bigger or higher than such trivial pursuits. We tend to be consumed with words that should mean nothing to us if they were untrue. This demonstrates a real sign of having an unhealthy ego and insecurity. As someone aptly put it, Filipinos can be onion skinned cry-babies.

Rule-of-law, arguably the centrepiece concept in a modern democracy, demands that every citizen be a stakeholder in its continued application. Yet the fact that the Philippines is a country of lawyers highlights the disturbing irony of a society held hostage by the Law’s letter — because many Filipinos simply fail to appreciate its spirit. Greg Sheridan in his book Asian Values Western Dreams explains what Filipinos consistently miss by showing what we are not:

In Japan there are very few lawyers and the codes are mostly unwritten, but they are binding, nonetheless.

So was this week’s Thrilla in NAIA really all about lax security measures at the country’s premiere airport? Not likely. Like wretched poverty in a land of plenty and gross ignorance in a highly-literate society, senseless violence in a police state is one of those things that boggle the mind no end in the Philippines.

[Photo courtesy]


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17 Comments on "Thrilla in NAIA: was the Tulfo-Raymart-Claudine brawl really all about inadequate airport security?"

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Qualitatively, I don’t really find security personnel here competent. A simple pat-down on the waist, for example, would not discover the butterfly knife hidden in a guy’s left shoe.

People being overly anal with the letter of the law… Pharisaic, if I may put it.

when I arrived at the NAIA terminal 3 from a trip abroad, I was appalled to see no one there except a few immigration officers. Not even a single security guard or usher was there to tell passengers where they should go next. ANYBODY can get past all the checks both departure and arrivals. in the departure area, it’s even worse. the personnel manning the x-ray machines can easily get distracted with food or conversation… before they know it, someone with a deadly weapon is already roaming the lobby of T3. lastly, sorry to say this, but even the PNP… Read more »

Funny that those “celebrity” faces look real average where I grew up in Baguio. Might just as well be, since those “celebrities” don’t speak smart English anyway.

What a well written take on what I experience here, dang I am a total nobody and yet they treat me so well, rudeness in lines driving vehicles it’s as if nobody is there people just keep on swerving in and out and gamble their own lives and family members it’s insane. I also stopped slamming Corona because I don’t feel anything will be fixed if he is found guilty because everyone seems to be on the take and yes the unbelievable red tape at the LTO office for simple renewal of registration of your vehicle, they have the latest… Read more »
Janet Pepito
In my own opinion the personnel in T3 are not trained properly to handle such situations. They are just put there without being briefed what to do. In my own experience, I flew from Cebu and ended up in T3 since it was a domestic flight. I was so impressed with the new terminal, it’s very clean, orderly and looked world class. My problem arose when I asked one of the uniformed personnel where to wait for my shuttle that would bring me to Marriott’s World Resorts thinking that it is just across T3. The first person I asked told… Read more »
Hyden Toro

What these brawling people showed off at the airport, is just a reflection of our society. Most of us, are immature and childish. Most have large Egos, and most think ourselves as very important people. Especially, if we are politicians or, celebrities. We even have a Noynoying President, who behave worse than that…so what are you complaining about. Let’s tell these people: GROW UP !…

One of our staff had a very bad experience just 3 weeks ago at T3 on his way to our office in Davao. He just missed to pickup one of his bags and left it for merely 1 minutes at the x-ray machine. When he realized he left it, he went back only to find its not there anymore. When he asked the security personnel and there was even 1 or 2 police in uniforms there, they just told him ‘somebody must’ve took it’…and they look the other way and never even offered some help or assistance… He lost his… Read more »
nelson ongpauco
ang napansin ko lang sa news ay ng inawat ng guardia si tulfo ay sakalsakal ng guardia habang sinusuntok ng kaibigan ni raymart at ni claudine pinabayaan nilang suntukin si tulfo siguro dahil artista sila raymart at claudine ..ang palagay ko ay si raymart ang unang sumuntok dahil malayo naman si tulfo kay claudine at nilapitan siya ni raymart…siguro ng hindi burahin ni tulfo ang vidio ay sinuntok sya ni raymart ng lumaban si tulfo ay hinatak siya ng guadia kaya natumba at paglapit ni claudine ay nasipa sya ni tulfo hindi gaya ng sabi ni raymart na nilapitan si… Read more »

[…] taste for petty violence has spawned lively viral video circuses many times. Recall the Thrilla in NAIA involving Ramon Tulfo, Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barretto, Robert Carabuna vs the MMDA, and […]


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