Actor Raymart Santiago and at least six other men ganged up on Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist and radio host Ramon Tulfo on Sunday for taking photos of the former’s wife, actress Claudine Barretto, according to Tulfo’s account.
Tulfo said he arrived at Naia 3 from Davao City on a Cebu Pacific flight when he noticed a woman giving the stewardess a dressing down.
“The ground stewardess was on the verge of tears,” Tulfo told the Inquirer over the phone, recalling what caught his attention before the beating he received.
He said he initially sympathized with the woman after learning from onlookers that she had been complaining of “an off-loaded luggage,” which had been a subject of critical columns he wrote before.
He did not recognize the woman as Barretto until he walked toward the airline’s complaints desk.
Tulfo pulled out his mobile phone and took photos of the scene, which he said would form part of a column he intended to write, when a man from the actress’ group approached him.
The man, whom he later recognized as Barretto’s husband, “demanded to get my phone which I used in taking shots.” Tulfo said he refused to surrender his phone.
Santiago continued to force Tulfo to give up his phone when several men joined the actor, according to the columnist. Tulfo said he could not recall who threw the first punch because he was being ganged up.
Hit on blind side
Tulfo, a martial arts expert, said he was hit on his blind side as the punches kept coming.
The brawl took place shortly past noon at the baggage claim area.
While trying to fight his way out, Tulfo said Barretto, who was nearby, repeatedly cursed at him. He said he might have hit the actress with a kick as he tried to fight back.
“This is the real persona of an actress who is always portrayed [in the movies] as a martyr,” he said.
He said he pitied the ground staff of Cebu Pacific whom Barretto berated.
Both Barretto and Santiago denied Tulfo’s accusations in separate interviews.
Barretto said on radio that it was Tulfo who started the commotion.
The actress said it was the radio host and columnist who threw the first punch.
In an interview with Inquirer Entertainment and posted on INQUIRER.net after the incident, Santiago said that when he approached Tulfo to ask him about his cellphone video, the columnist suddenly punched and kicked him and his wife.
“Why would I hit an older man in front of my children? I wasn’t brought up by my parents that way,” he explained.
He added that his children were traumatized by the incident.
The actress said she and her husband were asking for the CCTV footage from airport authorities to prove their innocence.
Santiago said the complaints stemmed from the airline’s decision not to load some of their luggage on the same flight they took from Boracay to Manila.
“Our group consisted of three families,” he said. “Two of the families’ baggage went missing. The airline should’ve informed us of their decision to load our things on a different plane. Some of the children’s things and medicines were in the missing bags.”
Tulfo said Barretto continued “cussing” at him when they met for the second time at the airport police station. “I could only give her a smile as she fumed at me.”
At the same time, Tulfo denounced the Naia security personnel and the airport police for failing to restrain Barretto’s party as they were restoring order in the area.
He said he had submitted to the authorities when they arrived and as they were sorting things out, “somebody lunged behind me and grabbed me by the neck.”
The choking lasted a couple of seconds, and Tulfo said he could have passed out if it happened a few moments longer.
No arrests were made by the Manila International Airport Authority’s police intelligence and investigation department (PIID).
Lieutenant Demterio Sison, PIID officer in charge, said his men “have yet to determine the suspects in this incident. That is why, no arrests were made by Naia 3 policemen.
“Right now, we have two sets of complainants. Mr. Tulfo on one side and Claudine Barretto and husband Raymart Santiago on the other side. We are still investigating the case,” he told the Inquirer.
Sison, who noted contusions on Mr. Tulfo’s face, said the airport police were still trying to find out who started the fight.
Tulfo reportedly chanced upon Santiago and Barretto, who were among the passengers of Cebu Pacific Flight No. 5J 896 from Boracay.