The $500 million 'Desperate Housewives' damage suit: Is it for Filipino pride or greed?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-10-16
A group of Filipino doctors in California banded together and announced that they will file a $500 million damage suit against the producers of the ABC TV series Desperate Housewives over that Teri Hatcher slur about Philippine medical schools. This announcement was aired on TV Patrol of ABS-CBN last Friday.

It is but natural for us Filipinos to react to that negative line of Teri Hatcher's character. After all, not to react to it could altogether encourage the perception that all our medical professionals are graduates of fly-by-night medical schools.

Filipino reactions were vigorous — not just from Filipino medical professionals in the US but also from all Filipinos here and abroad. Filipino reactions to the Desperate Housewives slur registered as one of the most numerous on Youtube, now the world's favorite internet forum.

In fact, in typical Filipino fashion, we've over-reacted once again over what can be considered as nothing more than one issue in long line of misinformed racial slurs that are commonplace on US television. I say over-reaction because why should we be so enraged and incensed over a one-line put-down in a TV fiction-drama when we can be so quiet about the high crimes that are being committed on our people by our own elite and political leaders?

Our over-reaction over Teri Hatcher's line is no different from a Nazi SS officer in the early 1940s vehemently reacting to an allegation that German SS officers are aloof and snobbish when, in fact and in truth, they were, at the time, committing genocide on Jews and Eastern Europeans. Being aloof and snobbish should be the least of the concerns of one who is into genocide.

When I saw that announcement that a group of California Filipino doctors are filing a $500 million damage suit against the producers of the Desperate Housewives TV series, a lot of questions crossed my mind.

Foremost of these questions: How did they arrive at the sum of $500 million? A $500 million damage claim is so huge that one might be tempted to say that only the country should be laying claim to that and not just a group of Filipino doctors from California.

It has often been the comment among many non-Californians in the US that living in California has a marijuana effect on people’s thinking. These Filipino doctors seem to validate that.

Another question: Who will now deserve to receive that $500 million damage suit in case it wins? If the amount is pegged at such a huge amount on the justification that it is damage done to all Filipino medical professionals — then it can't be right that a few street smart California Filipino doctors will benefit exclusively.

Now, biggest question of all: Is it moral and fair to exact $500 million from the producers of Desperate Housewives over a line that could easily be defended as "part of character" as when for instance it's claimed that the character of Teri Hatcher is that of a misinformed housewife?

Corollary to the morality and fairness issue, the question arises: Doesn’t the recent Nursing Exams Leak Scandal logically create the likely impression that we produce sub-standard medical professionals? Doesn’t the reputation of the Philippines as a diploma mill justify that impression too?

Thus, in light of the fact that we do not exactly qualify as "the one without sin" — is it therefore moral and fair to demand $500 million from the producers of the series?

Frankly, from where I sit, wrecking another chair, this damage claim seems to conform more to the Filipino predatory character that, in this case, has been imbued with that all-too-familiar American favorite pastime of suing for a hefty profit.

If you want to know more about this predatory Filipino character, I suggest that you corner Gawad Kalinga's (GK) Tony Meloto for a lecture. In GK, he is attempting to wean Filipinos (mostly the males) from their predatory character and develop in them a sense of dignity that promotes self-improvement, a new spirituality and transform them into positive factors in Philippine society.

Our political leaders being the biggest predators in our society — they gobble loot in the hundreds of millions, if not billions — the Filipinos seemed to have adopted predation as the means to gain wealth. From the highest public office in the land all the way to the lonely rural outposts of the village militia, we can see predators stalking the helpless and the clueless.

There is a downside to this ridiculous $500 million damage suit. What happens if the show producers are able to justify in court the use of that controversial line — citing real events and incidents involving Filipino medical professionals? Would that not deliver a worse blow to Filipino pride and reputation?

That will transform a line of fiction into a legal fact!

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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