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Trigger warning: mentions of suicide
While Tito, Vic, and Joey didn’t exactly slip into our DMs, they did something much more invasive and ubiquitous: through TV screens, they took over our homes, taking a prime spot in our living or dining rooms – and our lives.
Long before children step into a classroom, they are already exposed to Tito, Vic, and Joey. Millions of us tune in every day, without knowing how the hosts’s behavior slowly but consistently lowers an already low bar for the treatment of women, ethnic minorities, and gender-diverse people.
From Aparri to Jolo, they pass off their antics as humor and blame us for not getting the “joke.”
For more than three decades, we were subjected to this kind of viewing from Monday to Friday and were compelled to call it “entertainment.” Hurtful jabs, such as calling depression gawa-gawa lang (made up), mocking Muslim tradition, and using discriminatory language against LGBTQ+ people – including telling one queer person to “go back into the closet” – were laundered through game shows giving out wads of cash, and later, the occasional apology.
Off-screen, the trio came across as a triple-strike of toxic machismo rather than the Three Stooges persona they projected onscreen.
In 1982, starlet Pepsi Paloma accused Vic, Joey, and Richie D’Horsie of drugging her and raping her. Tito allegedly intimidated Paloma, then a teenager, into dropping her complaint. Three years after, Paloma died by suicide.
As I said in a recent Rappler editorial, if the US has Donald Trump and his “grab them by the pussy” brag, the Philippines has Tito, Vic, and Joey as the personification of toxic masculinity.
Just as the The Apprentice TV show popularized Trump among the American voting public, Eat Bulaga served as a convenient advertising platform for Tito Sotto. Sotto consistently ranked among the top contenders in senatorial elections and served as Senate president from 2018 to 2022.
It was as Senate president that Sotto demanded that the Inquirer take down articles that implicated him in the rape of Paloma.
In the legislative halls, Sotto’s misogynist views had political and legal ramifications.
Sotto was among the most vehement opposers of the Reproductive Health Law. On paper, the law meant giving women – especially from the most resource-poor backgrounds – access to free contraceptives. In reality, the RH Law meant giving women control over their bodies and their future.
Even after the RH Law was passed, Sotto worked to make the provisions of the law impotent. In 2019, Sotto blocked the funding of contraceptive implants, a simple birth control method that would give women at least three years of freedom from the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy.
As if we needed more proof of the low opinion Sotto has of women who do not follow the prescribed heteronormative path of the conventional family, he openly insulted political activist Judy Taguiwalo during her confirmation hearing for her appointment as social welfare secretary.
Repeating a “joke” often used in Eat Bulaga, Sotto said, “in street language, when you have children and you are single, ang tawag do’n, na-ano lang (we call that, you just got knocked up).” Taguiwalo set Sotto straight about respecting all kinds of families but the audience reportedly laughed at Sotto’s comment.
Now the sleazy trio have left GMA.
It wasn’t over falling viewer ratings or differing opinions about the power of television as a tool for public education. It seems the dispute was about money.
The exodus sent the men shopping around for the next highest bidder. It appears that TV5 has entered the winning bid.
Of course, Tito, Vic, and Joey will jump at the chance to to host another TV show on another network. This is the only way they can counter their own natural – and necessary – extinction and hang on to some semblance of relevance.
But in this auction, what is really on the line is our choice to learn how to treat others who are different from us with respect and dignity. Continuing to give Tito, Vic, and Joey a place in our screens and in our lives means all of us lose. – Rappler.com
Ana P. Santos writes about the intersections of gender, sexuality, and migrant labor rights. She has postgraduate degree in Gender (Sexuality) from the London School of Economics and Political Science.