THE newly-formed Filipino Anti-Defamation Coalition staged a noontime rally in front of the Disney Store adjacent to San Francisco's famed Union Square last October 13 in a continuing protest to what it has termed as a "bigoted remark" about Filipino medical professionals on the ABC Television Network series Desperate Housewives.
Disney-ABC Television Group, part of Disney Media Networks, manages among others, the ABC Television Network.
Carrying placards which stated “Desperate Housewives TV Show No Class,” “Disney/ABC We Need More Than An Apology,” “Desperate Bigots,” “Filipino Medical Schools Best” and “Shame on Disney,” around 60 protesters picketed the store for about an hour, chanting anti-ABC/Disney slogans and passing out flyers to passers-by.
In an interview with Asian Journal, Coalition member Atty. Rodel Rodis said one of the main reasons for doing the protest in front of the Disney Store is to get the attention of the entertainment giant.
“What we need to do is to get Disney to wake up, to see that this is not good for Disney and this is the parent of ABC,” Rodis stated. “Sometimes you have to go to the parent in order to get the child to behave. This is what we need to do in order for Disney to say that we need to give these people more than just an anemic apology.”
“It is insulting that who they have sent so far is their Vice President for Diversity,” added Rodis. “His job is to pacify the natives, pacify the minorities. We have not gotten any apology from the President of ABC, from the producers of Desperate Housewives. In fact, the apology does not carry any recognition that they made a mistake. It’s like, ‘We’re sorry we offended you. Too bad.’”
Rodis also explained that the remark, while it may have intended to be humorous, presents a bigger problem. “This is far more serious than a racial slur. When you start putting into the minds of people that you better watch these doctors – that if they have medical diplomas from the Philippines, these are substandard and inferior – you better not trust yourselves or your relatives to them, then that’s very pernicious. This is a very serious insult to our people, and it is defamatory. The worst that I can think of or have seen in years,” he said.
As far as the class action suit discussed in a recent meeting is concerned, Rodis said they are studying every angle.
“The class action suit is being studied around the country by lawyers right now. They are coordinating through e-mails and conference calls,” he revealed. “It’s a very tricky situation so we know what the legal pitfalls are, but we are trying to find a way in order to be able to file it and make it stick.”
The coalition, Rodis said, will decide on further protest actions during future meetings. He revealed that a summit on November 10 is planned where doctors, organizations, nurses, professionals and all groups who were mobilized due to this issue will talk on what direction they will take.
The summit may even determine the final position of the Filipino medical community. “Hopefully, there will be a unified voice led by an executive committee composed of the associations of Filipino physicians in America. We hope that there will be a coordinating body which will speak with one voice on the issue,” Rodis said.
Rodis is convinced that the medical community and the Coalition will take the fight to the end.
“There were doctors in a recent meeting who said they have been in the profession for 30 years, but felt like their contributions were devalued because of what ABC did,” Rodis said. “They were really hurt… this is a very deep wound that cannot be cured with a band-aid. That’s why it may take a long time to resolve.”
Dr. Carmelo Roco, former president of the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California, meanwhile, said that it may be too late even if ABC has deleted the offensive scene from the season opener.
“The damage has already been done,” he stated. “Many Americans have seen the episode that degraded Filipino American doctors. It was like a subconscious suggestion to the minds of all these people.”
“We need to cure this, not with just an apology, but for ABC to have a program that has a positive impact on the future of our countrymen. We need not only an apology but constructive television programs as well that will be good for everybody,” Dr. Roco added.
Dr. Roco said he talked to his American colleagues, who expressed sympathy with their plight. “Many American doctors have called me to say that we should fight for our rights… so that this mistake, which took a swipe at our honor and dignity, will not happen again. This is not only for our children, but also for those educated in the Philippines who want to go to America. We need to remove the doubt from the American people that we have a defective education [system],” Roco explained.
Like Atty. Rodis, Dr. Roco expects this issue to be a continuing struggle and present an opportunity for the Filipino people to be united.
“This is not just for now,” Dr. Roco said. “We will continue to safeguard our rights. Our community and our heritage should not be taken for granted.”
On the September 30 episode of the widely-viewed TV series, Teri Hatcher’s character expressed apprehension about the diagnosis of her doctor, saying that she needed to look at the diploma to make sure that it is not from some med school in the Philippines.
The remark triggered protests within the Filipino community, calling for ABC and the producers of Desperate Housewives to apologize for what was perceived as a slur against medical professionals who obtained their education from the Philippines.
ABC had issued an apology which did not appease many members of the Filipino community. It has also since edited the line from the episode, which can be viewed on abc.com.