By Hannah Torregoza
“Unpleasant,” “arrogant,” having a “sense of entitlement” were some of the many reactions from senators and various groups to the way ACTS-OFW Representative John Bertiz threw his weight around at airport personnel Saturday. The images of the virtual bullying were captured by CCTV cameras at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Other reactions were calls for him to be removed as representative of the ACTS-OFW organization; should be investigated by the House Committee on Ethics; and a reminder that government officials should serve as an example to the people on how they should behave in public places.
Despite Bertiz’s apology Monday aired during an impromptu press conference at the House of Representatives, comments poured over social media rebuking his behavior of disregarding a security procedure at the X-ray area and then grabbing the ID of a NAIA security aide.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said that as much as possible, public officials like him should set aside their sense of entitlement and regard the people as their boss.
‘We are not the boss’
“As much as possible, dapat ang attitude natin—and I don’t mean to disrespect anyone—as public officials, kami ang number one naalila e (We are the number one servants),” Sotto told reporters when sought for comment in an interview.
“Hindi dapat tayo ang boss; ang boss ang taombayan (We are not the boss; the people are the boss). I drive my own car, and I follow the traffic rules,” Sotto pointed out.
Sotto also said he rarely calls for VIP treatment at the airport whenever he travels locally or abroad. The Senate leader said he too follows airport protocol and would remove shoes, belts and other accessories if airport officials would ask him.
“Ginagawa siguro nung iba, pero ako hindi. Napapangitan ako (The others I think do that, but I don’t. I find it unpleasant),” Sotto said.
‘Sense of entitlement’
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, in his Twitter account, also assailed Bertiz for his arrogance after watching the video clip that went viral.
“Sense of entitlement? Grabe ka bossing! Kayabangmo! (You are arrogant, boss!)” Ejercito tweeted.
Ejercito also rejected Bertiz’ claims that he harassed the airport security staff for allowing Chinese-looking individuals to pass through security unchecked.
“Kitang kita sa video Mr. Congressman kahit walang audio kung paano ka umasta! Hindi lisensya para magmalakiang may suot kang pin ng Kongreso. Dapat nga mas maingat sa publiko kapag suot mo iyan,” Ejercito stressed.
Viral videos over the weekend showed the ACTS-OFW Party-List lone nominee seemingly bullying a security personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after the latter accosted him for refusing to remove his shoes during body check.
At one point in the video, Bertiz shoved his ID at the face of the security aide before swiping at the latter’s jacket as if to look for his own identification.
“I shouldn’t act that way, it’s uncalled for…I shouldn’t have grabbed the ID of the gentleman (NAIA security aide)…I have no intention of harming [him],” said the first-term congressman.
“Tao lang p onamarupok, naiistress at umiinitangulo (I am only human, one who is weak, gets stressed and angry),” offered the Minority solon.
“Patawadpo (Forgive me),” he said.
At the House of Representatives, Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said the minority bloc has been consulted about the viral video footage that earned Bertiz severe bashing on social media.
Former President and now Pampanga Rep.GloriaMacapagal-Arroyo was also asked to comment but directed the media queries to Suarez.
Bertiz, Suarez said, remains the Assistant Minority Leader, adding that there is no reason to remove him from his post.
House rules do not impose severe penalties for similar wrongdoing but a reprimand may be imposed if found guilty.
“We’re gathering all the narratives of the event but at the same time I have consulted the leaders of the minority,” he said.
Suarez added: “There may be a possibility that we may have totake this with the ethics committee.”
Push for ethics probe
According to him the minority blocs will await for a complaint from “outside party” but whether or not this will come, the opposition will still push for the ethics probe.
He explained that a deeper investigation has become necessary in the light of reports that the OFW community has become divided about the incident.
Suarez said that aside from the argument he had with NAIA security, Bertiz’s claim of security lapses and corruption at the airport will also be included in the probe.
“This is a sensitive issue. But give us time to determine the truth,” said Suarez.
Labor group’s demand
Meanwhile, Hong Kong migrants are calling for the removal of Bertiz as ACTS-OFW representative from Congress.
“Bertiz has crossed the line so many times. He should be punished by the House of Representatives for disorderly behavior and be expelled from Congress,” Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK), said in a statement.
She said “it was Bertiz who violated the airport security protocol, a security measure that only the Philippine president can be exempted from. The least he could have done is to humbly apologize and go through the security screening again,” said Balladares-Pelaez.
“But no! His ego was so hurt that he still went back just to scold him and illegally confiscate the poor man’s ID. That is a totally unacceptable behavior for someone who wants to be addressed as ‘Honorable’ congressman,” she added.
Balladares-Pelaez also recalled the organization’s experience with Bertiz.
“In January 2017, we sought a dialogue with Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod who was visiting Hong Kong to discuss our demands particularly the abolition of the overseas employment certificate (OEC). To our surprise, Rep. Bertiz also came to the said dialogue uninvited, spoke for almost 20 minutes and lectured us on the need for the OEC and that only his proposed “OFW ID” can replace the OEC,” she said.
Balladares-Pelaez narrated how Bertiz got mad and raised his voice to UNIFIL-MIGRANTE secretary General Eman Villanueva who politely raised his hand wanting to tell Bertiz to not take so much of their time with Usec Joel Maglungsod.
UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK is an alliance of more than 30 OFW associations that’s been existence for more than 30 years.
Only one VIP
Meanwhile, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal, in a press conference, explained that the Bertiz’s issue occurred while they were implementing security alert level 2.
The alert required all departing passengers to place all their hand carry bags and shoes through the X-ray machines.
After Bertiz claimed that Chinese-looking passengers were given VIP treatment during that alert level, Monreal said he reviewed the CCTV footages but found no incident of that sort.
“WalakamingnakitangmgaChinese-looking passengers on that time, si Ms. Imee Marcospoangsinundanni Congressman Bertiznanaghubadngsapatos at nilagay sa X-ray (We did not see any Chinese-looking passengers at that time; only Ms. Imee Marcos followed Congressman Bertiz and she took off her shoes and placed them under the X-ray machine),” he said.
We give that privilege only to one VIP and that is President Duterte, Monreal said in Pilipino.
He recalled that sometimes President Duterte raises his arms when he passes the metal detectors and the airport is on security alert level 2.
Office of Transportation Security (OTS) Administrator Art Evangelista said Bertiz “definitely violated airport security protocols.”
He said he is waiting for the recommendation of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and President Duterte before deciding on the matter. (With reports from Ellson A. Quismorio, Ben R. Rosario, Leslie Ann G. Aquino, and Ariel Fernandez)