By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent
The Philippine National Police (PNP) recalled the police escorts of broadcasters Erwin Tulfo and his brother Ben while their older brother, columnist and special envoy to China Ramon’s Marine escorts were removed after Erwin threatened to assault Social Welfare Sec. Rolando Bautista who did not agree to an interview.
While the Duterte administration usually hounds critical media persons, it appears to coddle those supportive of its policies when it came to light that the Tulfo brothers who are vocal in their support for Duterte got around with security escorts. The privilege was enjoyed even by members of their immediate families such as Erwin’s wife and two children.
The recall of the Tulfos’ security escorts comes in the wake of a rant that Erwin made on his show on state-run Radyo Pilipinas against Bautista for not agreeing to an on-air interview.
Erwin threatened to slap Bautista, a former commanding general of the Philippine Army, and push the latter’s head down a toilet bowl.
Berating lesser officials is not uncommon among the Tulfo brothers who project an image of fearless crusaders.
Prior to the rant, there had been talk that Tulfo would be appointed press secretary. This could be the reason he declined to sit as congressman representing the party-list AKO-CIS which topped the party-list election.
The recall of the Erwin’s police escorts came at the same time that the Philippine Marines detailed to protect Ramon were pulled out.
Ramon is a columnist and President Duterte’s special envoy to China for public diplomacy.
PNP Chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said “good moral character” is part of the criteria for the grant of police escorts similar to permits to carry firearms, thus suggesting that the Tulfos’ character now leaves much to be desired.
“If you’re giving protection and he attacks you, what would you do?”
Albayalde said. “Sino bang maniniwala sa amin kung sasabihin namin na walang kinalaman iyon?” he added, referring to Erwin’s run-in with Bautista.
Malacañang said on June 1 that it supports Social Welfare Sec. Rolando Bautista after he was berated by broadcaster Erwin Tulfo but also urged the parties to move on from the incident.
“Well, Mr. Tulfo has his reasons for doing what he did. He apologized for it and I think we shall accept the apology. He was gentleman enough to apologize,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing.
“I think we should bury that. We should move forward. Nag-apologize na iyong mama eh.” he said.
Panelo, however, clarified that Bautista enjoys the support of the Palace.
The Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association defended Bautista, saying he has done more for the country than Tulfo ever could.
Bautista, the former commander of the Presidential Security Group, the 1st Infantry Division, and Joint Task Force Marawi, was at the frontlines during the height of the Marawi siege, earning the respect of military men who fought alongside him.
“You cannot stop (the PMA alumni in expressing) their outrage.
That’s the right of any individual or group,” Panelo said.
“That’s their right. They feel that their fellow member has been gravely offended and they rose to the defense,” he said.
A former colleague of Bautista clarified why the latter rejected Erwin’s call for an interview. Nick Sotelo, a military consultant, claimed on Facebook that Bautista was conversing with an ambassador at the moment Tulfo’s staff was trying to reach him for the interview.
After receiving the early batch of criticisms, Tulfo admitted that his tirade against Bautista went too far. However, he asserted his right as a journalist to criticize officials.
“I think I have a right bilang journalist at hindi ko babawiin ‘yun.
Dahil kaming magkakapatid wala sa bokabularyo namin ang bumabawi sa commentary and it is not our option,” Tulfo said.