By Joel Saracho
IT was a scene straight out of a comedy of errors. But nobody’s laughing.
A labor party-list representative called film workers “idiots” while in a subcommittee hearing on the Eddie Garcia Bill. A response to the fatal accident that befell the screen icon while taping a drama series last year, the bill seeks to create occupational and safety standards for the film and television entertainment industry.
Industry workers and leaders actively participated in the public hearings. Among the attendees from the entertainment sectors were representatives from the film and television industry, the Inter-Guild Alliance (IGA) and the FDCP (Film Development Council of the Philippines).
It took five versions and several long meetings before the bill was approved in the subcommittee level. It will now move to the main committee (Labor) before the bicameral session.
But much like in a teleserye, there has to be a villain, a kontabida, to provide dramatic tension. This time, it came from, ironically, a labor party-list representative who called the industry people idiots without realizing his microphone was not on mute.
One of the major contentious issues is work hours. Industry representatives said a eight- to 12-hour work schedule is not realistic for an industry that requires long hours for ingress, set-up and regress with several scenes to shoot in between. Industry workers are pushing for a maximum of 16 hours.
But Rep. Ray Mendoza, who is presiding over the hearing, recommended that such matters be discussed in the tripartite council that will be formed after the bill has passed into law. Mendoza argued the existing labor laws cannot be tampered with to serve one sector. It is best, he said, that these matters be discussed in the tripartite council and be made part of the implementing rules and regulations.
The industry speakers, consisting mostly of the members of the Inter-Guild Alliance and the FDCP plus stakeholders in the entertainment industry, expectedly pressed their points. And the discussion on the provision dragged to over an hour.
Just as the parties were coming to an agreement, a voice, which sounded exasperated and angry, was heard form the unmuted microphone: “[Mendoza] is pandering to these idiots…. These are idiots from the films industry. My God!”
The comment came from Cong. Luis Corral, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Party-List Representative. A brief silence ensued. Rep. Christopher de Venecia, cochairman of the subcommittee, moved for a one-minute break that lasted to over 10 minutes as, presumably, tempers had to be checked.
When session resumed, Rep. Mendoza (also from TUCP) apologized profusely before calling on Corral who said, “I am mortified and very embarrassed.” Corral said he didn’t know his mic was not on mute. He reiterated his commitment to support he film industry and “hope we can move forward.”
The participants accepted the apology, but not without addressing the faux pax.
Mackie Galvez of the Liga ng Sinematograpong Filipino said the entertainment industry is complicated enough to understand, and the hearing was one occasion for its intricacies to be discussed and understood by policy-makers. This was echoed by Mara Marasigan, spokesman of the IGA, who said industry workers join the deliberation “because we want a safer place for our community.”
Rez Cortez, current head of the Mowelfund and known for his anti-villain roles, said he didn’t know there were villains in the TUCP, too: “Meron din palang kontrabida sa TUCP.” Liza Diño of the FDCP also asked the congressmen to be more patient and understanding.
But Corral has not heard the end of it. In Facebook, lawyer-producer Joji Alonso immediately posted a screencap of Corral’s picture with scathing words: “Your apology was obviously perfunctory. You had to apologize because you forgot that your microphone was not muted and everyone in attendance heard you.” The post generated various reactions, with actress and director Laurice Guillen coming up with a tongue-in-cheek: “Who is this unfortunate man?”
Moving forward, Rep. De Venecia ended the episode with these words: “There is no place in this committee for that kind of language.”
And Corral was booted out of the meeting.