Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. – Star of “Alyas Pogi” (1990) “Alyas Pogi 2” (1992) and “Alyas Pogi: The Return” (1999) – has a penchant for roles that demand bandanas, screaming half-naked females and paint-by-number tattoos. The boyish superman with the plastic M14 can take on a gang of mustached and bearded hoods – hoods, we assume, by virtue of the mustaches – all while heroically sucking in the gut under the tucked-in T-shirt. This is the man whose defining moment in his role as Leon in the 2000 film “Ang Kilabot at ang Kembot” has three women accusing him (accurately) of pretending loyalty to each of them, while all the while attempting to get a virgin into bed. And so the women stride in, big brothers in tow, all of whom launch themselves at the man with a hand on another woman’s behind. And then the action starts, elbow to gut, fist to face, a knee to the groin, the whining Casanova suddenly Zorro. The men fall bleeding at his feet, and so do the women, all four trying to squirm their half-naked selves into his arms while Leon rolls his eyes. Another day in the life of a real man.
This is Bong Revilla, whose contribution to culture is in large part the image of the Filipino macho man in a country where film and television offer the public the most accessible set of social standards. In the celluloid world of Bong Revilla, women are either sluts or virgins, wives are forgiving, and a real man is someone with a gun in one hand and a breast in the other. This is Bong Revilla, whose various love affairs while married to his wife and former screen partner Lani Mercado has provided fodder for entertainment news, and whose final acknowledgement of a love child has even his father – who himself fathered illegitimate offspring at the age of 75 – lecturing him on the value of a good marriage. This is Bong Revilla, senator of the Republic, wire-rimmed glasses in place, pounding the lectern in a privilege speech demanding morality from a “maniac” and a “pervert” who he cannot believe is a real man.
There is little doubt as to the guilt of one Doctor Hayden Kho, erstwhile lover of plastic surgery queen Dr. Vicki Belo – he of the red bandanna, gyrating hips, and unfathomable love for George Michael. He has admitted to filming a number of women without their consent during sex, and whether he was responsible for the distribution of those videos, the act of filming alone was enough to toss him behind bars.
What is perhaps stunning about the entire Hayden Kho-Katrina Halili scenario is the level of attention it is getting from the national government. The Senate claims an investigation in aid of legislation is vital to ensure that instances like this will not happen again. Senator Revilla, in a GMA7 interview, claims there is no existing law that will hold Kho responsible, with the exception of perhaps a case of child abuse (Revilla says he has unsubstantiated evidence that Kho did film a minor) or civil damages. It is this “toothless” legislation that Revilla wants to change with his playing knight in shining armor, forgetting perhaps that Kho can be held liable under the Violence Against Women and Children Act.
It is difficult to understand why the senators seem to feel the need to waste national funds on pitting Kho and Halili against each other. Kho does not deny his responsibility, Halili has done little but weep and rail, and while the cameras are trained on the tears rolling down her cheek, the Comelec chief approves of a much-questioned automation, a landslide slips completely off the front page, and the GDP dips lower than conservative estimates. When the story first exploded, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita urged all the women in Dr. Kho’s sex videos to press charges, saying that “anything that is offensive to public morals must be sanctioned,” on the same day brushing off a United Nations report on torture violations in the Philippines. Perhaps rape and strangulation are not offensive compared to a sex video. Allegations of Filipina rapes in Subic did not instigate privilege speeches by Bong Revilla. Charges of torture did not make Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez demand the blacklisting of now Partylist Representative Jovito Palparan.
And this is where morality again walks into the limelight and demurely crosses its legs. All of a sudden every man is a puritan, even the gentlemen of the Senate who “just happened” to view the sex videos. There is suddenly talk again about the evils of sex among the new generation, and a law, authored by Alyas Pogi himself, seeking to “safeguard the interest of the State against the menace” of “pornographic materials” that “disrupt the peace and order of the country.” Pornography, he calls it, anything that represents by whatever means a person (whether minor or an adult) “engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any other representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual purpose that is intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feeling.”
It is a law that has nothing to do with the Hayden Kho case, whose main issue is essentially a conceded lack of consent. Neither does this explain why Revilla and other senators insisted on keeping the investigation public, when aiding legislation could work whether or not senators have a venue to grandstand. And yet this national outrage can very well justify the passing of a law whose definition can give Manoling Morato a reason to kick out another “Schindler’s List.” And so it would mean a farewell to films from “Orapronobis” to “Scorpio Nights” to “Burlesque Queen” to Ai-Ai de las Alas’ “Tanging Ina Mo.” It would mean the possibility of canning “Star Trek” and “Kill Bill” and National Geographic features. It can knock out half the bookshelves of Fully Booked. Brillante Mendoza, recent Cannes best director, will find himself behind bars for producing last year’s critically acclaimed “Serbis.” I do not trust the gentlemen of the Senate to define what is aesthetic, what is emotional, and what is crude, as they do not recognize crudeness in themselves.
It is unnecessary to argue that it is the height of hypocrisy for such a man to propose such a bill, the only added value of this law would perhaps be the banning of Bong Revilla films from the shelves of Video City.