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TV drama scenes bordering on discrimination, says EOC chair

21 April 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap


Wong says sorry for playing the role of a Filipina helper who used sorcery to seduce her employer

Equal Opportunities Commission chairperson Ricky Chu said there were scenes in the controversial TV drama, Barrack O’Karma 1968 that he found disturbing and could be construed as “bordering on racial discrimination.”

Chu made his remarks when asked for his opinion on whether the TV episode might have violated racial discrimination laws during The SUN Interviews, which aired live on Facebook Wednesday night.

He said what disturbed him most were the dialogues in two scenes in episode 7 of the show where a male character used a collective noun in addressing the local Chinese actress who played the role of a Filipina domestic worker.


By making the man say things like “You Filipina domestic helpers are such and such…” Chu said there was a narrative that was totally discriminatory and bordering on racial discrimination and possibly vilification.”

He was joined in the program by Shiela Tebia Bonifacio, a spokesperson of Asian Migrants Coordinating Body which announced during a press conference held earlier in the day that it was mulling filing a complaint with the EOC against those behind the program.

AMCB’s statement which Bonifacio read during the press briefing said members were “very offended” by the drama series aired recently by TVB, which it said unkindly portrayed migrant domestic workers as “dark-skinned liars, seducers and witches.”


Bonifacio said she had watched the TV drama with some Chinese friends and it made her feel insulted, particularly  because the Filipina domestic worker was portrayed as having used  witchcraft to seduce her male employer.

She said the AMCB wished to complain, not so much about the brown-faced portrayal of Filipino migrant workers by a light-skinned actress, but because of the overall negative depiction of their character.

Chu agreed that the brownface aspect may not be discriminatory in itself, but it could be used with other elements to draw up sufficient evidence of discrimination or vilification.

EOC chair Ricky Chu says a complaint has to be made before an inquiry can be launched

Chu also welcomed Bonifacio’s desire to pursue a case, saying the EOC needed a complaint before it could initiate an inquiry.  

“I want to make it clear that I don’t want to pre-empt a complaint,” said Chu.

He said the migrant workers’ group need not worry about approaching the EOC because there will be a team that will assess their complaint and advise them on their next move.


Meanwhile, Franchesca Wong, the actress who darkened her skin to play the role of the Filipina helper, has broken her silence following the uproar over the  drama series.

“I genuinely have no intention to disrespect or racially discriminate any ethnic group, please forgive me for getting it wrong. It has been a challenging experience to be at the centre of the lesson that art reflects deeply entrenched social attitudes,” said Wong.

“I am truly sorry that my insensitivities have offended and hurt. I am committed more than ever to using my acting for the good of the community.”

Wong was shown in a video while in the act of coloring her legs brown

TVB, which has received much of the flak in the controversy, has taken down the episode in question from its website but announced that it will be made available again after changes have been made.

Consul General Raly Tejada who has slammed the show for being “ignorant, insensitive and totally disgusting,” saw TVB’s move as an admission that they did something wrong.

“I believe TVB has stopped making the show available and they even shelved the second episode. This is a big victory and an admission on TVB’s part that there is something wrong with their show,” he said.


But the country’s top diplomat who has fired off letters of complaint to both TVB and the Hong Kong government over the perceived slight to Filipinos said the network should do more than just pull out the show.

“I hope a proper apology could be issued by TVB,” he said.

Congen Tejada also welcomed Wong’s public apology, saying it was an admission that she did the Filipino community wrong.


“I also see it as a sincere attempt to redeem herself,” he said.

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