ABS-CBN apologizes to Butuan congressman after tantrum over ‘offensive’ depiction of city

Things must be pretty slow in the ol’ running-the-country department this time of year — or so we assume. We’re not sure how else Agusan Del Norte Congressman Lawrence Fortun would have mustered the time and energy to throw a public hissy fit after a new television drama depicted a fictional terrorist attack in a city he represents.

Fortun issued a statement yesterday expressing his dismay over the purportedly “offensive” and “unrealistic” portrayal of Butuan City as a hotbed of terrorism in the new ABS-CBN action-drama A Soldier’s Heart, whose pilot episode on Monday featured a bombing at a Butuan City market.

“As a Butuanon who was born and raised in a city that was and has never been known to be a hub of extremism and terrorism, I am dismayed by the portrayal of Butuan as a hotbed of chaos,” the statement read, apparently ignoring the fact that Butuan and its surrounding areas actually have seen their share of unrest.

Just last year, a high-ranking rebel leader of the New People’s Army and his son were killed in an encounter with troops near a patrol base in Butuan City. Several attacks by rebels on Butuan City police stations were also reported in 2018. Near the end of 2018, the same rebel group captured two soldiers and 12 militiamen in Sibagat town, in Agusan del Sur, seizing their rifles and machine guns and taking the men prisoner.

As Fortun’s statement goes on, however, it becomes a bit clearer why he might object to any depictions — fictional or not — that could cause a viewer to associate Butuan with danger.

“The depiction is not only unrealistic, it is offensive because it is destroying the collective efforts of the people of Butuan to promote the Home of the Balangays as a tourist destination for history and culture and [as] a hub of opportunities,” the statement says.

Fortun went on to urge the network “to immediately air an appropriate disclaimer, review, and reconsider the content and story elements of the TV series in order not to further besmirch the reputation of our historic city.”

“Better still, as partial recompense for the damage this imprudence may have caused Butuan and its people, we implore upon them to do [sic] depict the real Butuan and feature stories about it in their news and public affairs programs,” Fortun said, extending an invite to the crew to “experience for themselves the beauty of Butuan.”

In a response to the congressman, ABS-CBN reiterated that A Soldier’s Heart is a work of fiction (making Fortun’s tantrum about as reasonable as the mayor of New York lashing out at King Kong for suggesting giant apes were scaling its skyscrapers, or the governor of California slamming Die Hard‘s depiction of L.A. as hotbed of eurotrash thievery), but nonetheless issued a public apology yesterday to the lawmaker and his constituents.

“While the incident portrayed in the series was fictitious, there was mention of the city name,” ABS-CBN said in a statement. “We would like to assure them that there was no deliberate intention to portray Butuan City negatively in the show. We acknowledge that Butuan is one of the most beautiful and peaceful cities in the country.”

Despite criticizing the show, Fortun assured the network that he is in fact a co-author of House Resolution 639, which supports the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise. The network’s license is set to expire in March, and its renewal has been a matter of speculation ever since the president laced into the outlet for failing to air his campaign ads when he was still a candidate.

This article, ABS-CBN apologizes to Butuan congressman after tantrum over ‘offensive’ depiction of city, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!