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Why Raffy Tulfo Means Justice for the Filipino Everyman

The Court of Raffy Tulfo, explained.
by Ara Eugenio
Dec 21, 2020
Photo/s: Youtube/Raffy Tulfo in Action
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Social media exploded overnight after video of an off-duty policeman's fatal shooting of an elderly woman and her son went viral. When the lawbreaker is also a law enforcer, some people thought of one recourse  broadcaster Raffy Tulfo.

Tulfo continues the family's legacy of action-based public service. It's a trail blazed by their eldest brother, Mon Tulfo, who fires at inefficiencies in government in his newspaper column that lasted for years. Brother Raffy takes on the same ills on free TV and YouTube, all while wearing rare sneakers.

On Monday, netizens called his attention to the suspect in the viral shooting, Corporal Jonel Nuezca, who could be charged with double murder over the killing of Sonya and Frank Anthony Gregorio in Paniqui town, Tarlac on Sunday.

ALSO READPoliceman Shoots Dead Mother and Son, Stirs Debate on Killings, Violence

Why seek justice from the Tulfos?

The popularity of TV and YouTube channel "Raffy Tulfo in Action" transcends entertainment. People's tendency to turn to the show reveals how it has emerged as an alternative mechanism for seeking justice, analysts said.

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It has done so in a way that is "free, swift, and convenient." In the Court of Raffy Tulfo, parties can avoid the need for expensive lawyers and court fees, said lawyer JC Tejano of Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN).

"They also immediately find resolution in just one episode (maybe two or three in other cases) as opposed to having to attend years and years of hearings in court wherein, by the way, they are rarely even heard since often only lawyers speak in a language that they do not understand," he said. Raffy Tulfo speaks in a language that is relatable to his viewers, the masses, from which his clients also come from. 

Parties involved don't even have to "attend" anything in the show; they can do it via phone patch or video call which is even more attractive in this pandemic, Tejano said. 

"All these advantages speak volumes about access to justice, or the lack thereof, in the country," he said.

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In the 2020 World Justice Project (WJP)'s Rule of Law index, the Philippines placed 91st out of 128 countries. The country's score has been declining since 2016.

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Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told Teleradyo that the Paniqui shootings was "blood murder" in its face, vowing to give justice to the family of the victims. On social media, as clamor for Raffy Tulfo to step in grew, criticisms against it were just as loud as netizens denounced the show for its lack of due process.

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"Ipapa-Tulfo kita" is not unique to Raffy, it was popularized by his brother Mon in the 1990s in many variations, including "Isumbong mo kay Tulfo."

Tulfo "justice" appears swift and accessible

Media's role in resolving dispute wasn't always a balancing act between ratings and public service. It was borne out of the need to make lawyering more accessible to people in a country where the judicial system is criticized for being inaccessible, especially to the poor.

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The late Senator Rene Cayetano sought to reach a wider audience in 1998 by hosting the show "Compañero y Compañera", a public service program that offered free legal advice to viewers and listeners. It was replaced in 2000 by investigative docudrama show, Imbestigador, hosted by Mike Enriquez to this day. 

Before Raffy Tulfo in Action, there was TV5's Face-to-Face hosted by Amy Perez. It billed itself as a "Barangay hall on-air", resolving disputes that are often coloquially referred to the Barangay courts.

The katarungang pambarangay system, together with small claims courts, and the alternative resolution system, are other ways established on paper to avoid having to go through ordinary court procedure and hire lawyers for legal disputes.

"Alternative dispute resolution may be unreachable for many people; small claims courts may still be intimidating; and the katarungang pambarangay still has a lot of room for improvement in terms of capacitating the staff and officials involved," said Tejano.

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Reliefs are also supposedly much swifter through these mechanisms than through ordinary court procedure. "But of course none of them is as swift as in Raffy Tulfo in Action, which can promise dispute resolution in an instant," said Tejano. 

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