Filipinos are demanding an apology from the BBC for a sketch shown last week
By Andrew Buncombe and Toby Green
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
A comedy sketch in which a Filipina maid is shown being talked into having sex with a lazy Briton is causing diplomatic ructions between London and Manila.
The British ambassador to the Philippines was summoned by the country's Foreign Minister to explain the allegedly offensive clip broadcast on Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse's BBC show but has refused to apologise and has defended the corporation's right to editorial independence.
"The UK respects freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas. The BBC has editorial independence, and views expressed or portrayed by the BBC are completely independent from those of the UK Government," said a statement by the British embassy in Manila. The controversy broke out after the sketch was broadcast last week, prompting complaints and an online petition organised by Filipino expatriates in the UK. Letters of complaint were sent by the Philippines embassy in London to the Government, the Press Complaints Commission and the BBC. In one of the letters Edgardo Espiritu, the Philippines ambassador to Britain, described the portrayal of Filipinas in the sketch as "very malicious and... a blatant display of racial prejudice".
Raul Gonzalez, the country's Justice Minister has also spoken out, pledging to sign a petition that demanded an apology from the BBC. "I don't like our fellow Filipinos to be insulted," he said.
The sketch showed a Filipina in a maid's uniform wiggling her backside while a middle-class British man, played by Enfield, encourages his unenthusiastic and lethargic "pet Northerner", played by Whitehouse, to "mount her". Enfield points at the maid and tells her to "present your rear".
In Manila, Risa Hontiveros, an MP and women's rights activist, demanded an apology from the BBC, calling the episode of the Harry And Paul show, "revolting and disgusting". Tiger Aspect Productions, which makes the show, said: "Harry And Paul is a post-watershed comedy sketch series and, as such, tackles many situations in a comedic way. Set in this context, the sketch in question is so far beyond the realms of reality as to be absurd and in no way is intended to demean or upset any viewer."
But Maria Theresa Lazaro, a spokeswoman for the Philippines embassy in London, said: "We were definitely not amused. To stereotype Filipino women as domestic workers and sex playthings is not only malicious but is also a blatant display of racial prejudice. Besides, what did the said episode say about British employers?"
The treatment of Filipinos working overseas is a sensitive issue for the country, whose economy is kept afloat by the remittances they send home. Last year, a scene in the US series Desperate Housewives that used Philippines medical education as a punch line prompted angry calls from viewers.
Well, this is definitely way more serious than the Desperate Housewives fuss, which I thought was kinda stupid because Susan said it, and she's a bit touched in the head, and another example Filipino over-sensitivity. This on the other hand is kind of awful (although they should write to the BBC only, and stop getting the government involved). Bitches plz, without us all your old people would die. Go watch ~Caregiver~, heh.
Though I can't wait until a TV show about a TV show makes fun of Filipinos who complain about that TV shows-within a TV show, that would be epic. Gosh, I wish Dorota was filipino.
Also, I miss my yaya, OMG. And she never hit on my dad, she was pretty scared of him, LOL.