Filipinos furious over BBC show stereotype

A bizarre row has erupted between the Philippine government and Britain’s BBC TV station over the portrayal of a Filipino maid in a comedy sketch show.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said the Philippine Embassy in London sent letters to the BBC, as well as to the Secretary of State for Women and the Press Complaints Commission, to protest ‘this slur on our domestic workers’ in Britain.

Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo also summoned the British Ambassador Peter Beckingham to discuss the matter.

Filipino politician Risa Hontiveros, a women’s rights activists, demanded an apology from the broadcaster. There is also an online petition to protest.

Hontiveros described the September 26 episode of the TV show Harry and Paul, starring British comedians Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, as ‘revolting and disgusting’ and called it an ‘insensitive and racist attempt to satirize a scene of exploitation’.

The BBC did not comment immediately but the British Embassy in Manila issued a statement saying the BBC has editorial independence and the views expressed and portrayed by the network ‘are completely independent’ from the government.

It said Filipinos in Britain ‘are an important part of British society, making invaluable contributions to our scientific and service sectors, and enriching UK culture’.

The plight of millions of Filipinos working overseas is a sensitive issue for the Philippines, whose economy is kept afloat by billions of dollars in remittances they send home.