AN upcoming episode of American television series “Madam Secretary” includes the depiction of a Filipino president – and Filipino officials in the U.S. and the Philippines are not too pleased with it.
The trailer for the episode entitled “Break in Diplomacy” shows fictional Philippine President Datu Andrada (played by Joel de la Fuente) clad in a barong and is seen to be making sexual advances toward the lead character, U.S. Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (played by Téa Leoni), during a private meeting to discuss an Asia-Pacific territory treaty.
The meeting’s setting is suggested to be inside Malacañang, as several items, such as a Philippine flag and seal of the Office of the President, are shown in the clip.
In response to the inappropriate move, McCord punches Andrada in the face and bloodies his nose. She then tells her husband (played by Tim Daly), “I clobbered a world leader instead of saving a major regional agreement.”
The episode, which is slated to air on Sunday, March 12, has prompted the Philippine Embassy in Washington to respond.
In a statement dated Monday, March 6, the embassy called on CBS Corporation to take “necessary corrective actions,” following a “highly negative depiction” of the supposed Philippine president.
The “highly negative portrayal” of the Filipino president not only casts doubt on the respectability of the Office of the Philippine President but also “denigrates the way our nation navigates foreign affairs,” the embassy wrote.
Though the show is a work of fiction, the plot lines tend to draw parallels to 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,” the statement added.
Leading up to the president election last year, then-candidate Duterte came under fire for joking about the gang-rape of an Australian missionary in the late 80s while he was mayor of Davao City. His remark, loosely translated in English, suggested that he “should have been first.” He was also criticized for catcalling a female journalist and for groping females on the campaign trail.
As president, he has also been vocal about distancing the Philippines from its decades-long alliance with the United States in favor of a more independent foreign policy. He had made a string of anti-U.S. remarks during former President Barack Obama’s term for the administration’s concern for the extrajudicial killings and human rights violations associated with the Philippine government’s war on drugs.
The embassy’s statement went on to allege that the portrayal “tarnishes the Philippines’ longstanding advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality.”
On the embassy’s Facebook page, some netizens wrote that the depiction was mild compared to the reality.
“If you don’t wanna be embarrassed, then how about not being embarrassing? Have you looked at our president and the things his administration has done to the country? That portrayal was too kind. That complaint was lodged so swiftly. How about complaining against China encroaching on our territories?” one commenter said. “And please do not drag the name of the Filipino people into it as your bargaining chip. It’s such a transparent attempt to elicit sympathy. Your only real concern here is your need to save face. And that’s just pathetic.”
Another commented, “Um, you do know that our president remains unapologetic for his misogynistic remarks and actions, right? There is no respectability in the office left for the show to tarnish.”
Asked if Duterte found the trailer insulting, Philippine Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said: “Well, they engage in something that they would like to — It’s their business. It’s their craft. You cannot deny them their craft. Their taste, perhaps.”
He also told reporters on Tuesday, March 7 that the CBS show is “confusing their images.”
“I think they are projecting something that they really would like to say about their own situation,” the spokesperson said. “Really, I think they should use a fictional U.S. president.”