An American television network apologized to the Filipino people on Thursday for an insulting line in “Desperate Housewives,” one of its hit TV series, which belittled Filipino medical practitioners.
The insult earlier raised a howl across the Philippines and in Filipino communities worldwide, particularly those in the United States.
In the show’s Season 4 premiere aired on Sunday, the character played by actress Teri Hatcher asked for the credentials of the gynecologist who examined her.
The character, Susan Mayer, said: “Can I check those diplomas ‘coz I just want to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines.”
The government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo promptly condemned the insulting line and asked the producers of the show to issue an apology.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the TV show belittled the abilities of Filipino doctors and sent a message that Philippine medical schools produced “substandard, inferior” medical practitioners.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said he will demand from the producers of the show an explanation for an insulting line about medical schools in the Philippines.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced it has filed a formal protest with the American television network ABC that is airing the series.
The episode drew a lot of criticism from Filipinos here and abroad after it was posted on YouTube.
Ambassador Willy Gaa of the Philippine Embassy in Washington has also sent a protest letter to ABC Network.
Philippine consul general to Los Angeles Mary Jo Aragon wrote the ABC television producer of the show to express the displeasure of the Philippines over the remarks.
“The remark only served to create racial stereotypes, tainting unnecessarily the excellent record of Philippine-trained health-care professionals all over the world,” said Aragon.
Aragon told the show producers that Philippine medical professionals are highly regarded everywhere, including the US, which recognizes the academic standards of the Philippine medical and nursing schools and where a great number of them are practicing.
“Many foreigners, including the Americans, choose to undergo surgical and other medical procedures in the Philippines or by Filipino surgeons in America in recognition of the high quality of their medical skills,” said Aragon in asking the show’s producer “to rectify the injustice” to Philippine medical professionals.
In response, ABC Network issued a short statement of apology. “The producers of Desperate Housewives and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offense caused (by the insulting remark) in the season premier,” it said.
ABC Network added: “There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines.”
Some members of the Filipino community in the United States reportedly showed discontent despite the apology.
They have launched an online petition demanding that the “Desperate Housewives” episode be edited to remove the “ignorant and racist” remark. As of 4:16 pm Thursday, some 15,533 people have signed the petition.
The petition points out the major contribution that Filipinos and Filipino Americans make in healthcare in the United States:
“(A) statement that devalues Filipinos in healthcare is extremely unfounded, considering the overwhelming presence of Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the medical field. Filipinos are the second largest immigrant population in the United States, with many entering the U.S. (and successfully passing their U.S. licensing boards!) as doctors, nurses, and medical technicians.
“In fact, the Philippines produces more US nurses than any other country in the world. So, to belittle the education, experience, or value of Filipino Americans in health care is extremely disrespectful and plain and simply ignorant. Many of the hospitals in major metropolitan areas of the US (and the world) would not be able to operate without its Filipino and Filipino American staff members,” the petition said.
The message board of the “Desperate Housewives” website was peppered with threads regarding the issue.
One poster, using the alias “hunnybee07” wrote: “America has been very fortunate to have been served by many [Filipino] nurses and physicians. It is quite ungrateful of Americans to make such remarks. Even if it were meant to be a joke, it apparently hurt an entire nation. The Filipinos deserve an apology. One day, when you are old, it could just be a Filipino nurse by your bedside and then you would know why you should have taken back any insults against Filipinos, especially Filipino medical practitioners.”
One poster, who used the alias “berikyut,” was probably so infuriated that he “murdered” the English language in retaliation:
“What the hell…Talking but about the philippines in your premier… “Let me see your degree making sure is now from somewhere in the philippines”? For you information if you go to hospitals most nurses/doctors there is from philippines & is hard worker & very good…So I suggest you think about your comment before you say it or if it’s a joke It should be funny ( that is why it’s a joke) DUH!!! I usually like you in the show specially watching you in superman before…NOW forget it….that’s why you never win an emmy!!”
You hit the bullseye “berikyut”! Don’t mind those who’ll criticize your manner of speaking English. As long as you are able to ventilate your views and as long as you speak the truth, the rules of English can go to the polluted mind of the scriptwriter who wrote that offensive line about Filipino medical practitioners.