In a controversial clip from the premiere of ABC’s Desperate Housewives, Teri Hatcher (as Susan Mayer) refuses to be examined if the doctor is from ‘some med school in the Philippines.’ Why did the popular TV series single out the Philippines?

Watch the video:

The controversial line:

“Okay, before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? Coz I would just like to make sure they are not from some med school in the Philippines.

Why blame Teri Hatcher?

While it is impulsive to blame Teri Hatcher because she allowed herself to become the instrument of a prejudicial statement, it is the scriptwriter, director and producers of Desperate Housewives who have a lot more explaining to do.

Teri Hatcher was just following the script.

Was it a racial slur?
Although Teri Hatcher’s dialogue did not say ‘Filipinos’, it was nonetheless derogatory to the people of the Philippines by suggesting that medical professionals who graduate from Philippine schools cannot be trusted.

Why do Filipinos feel insulted by the dialogue?

It is because Filipino doctors are now among the visible minority in the medical field in the United States, alongside South Asian Indians. This same is true in the nursing field. Aside from White people and Blacks — the two major racial groups — professionals from the Philippines and India already comprise a sizable and respectable segment in the American medical field.

Teri Hatcher’s dialogue is a recognition of this fact. If not, why would the Philippines even be mentioned, or even singled out?

Philippine government reacts; Senator calls for ban

In a news report on ABS-CBN (Malacañang to ‘Desperate Housewives’: Apologize for slur):

The furor over a slur uttered against Philippine medical schools on the premier episode of the fourth season of the American TV show “Desperate Housewives” has prompted a response from Malacañang Palace. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the TV show belittled the abilities of Filipino doctors and sent a message that Philippine medical schools produced “substandard, inferior” medical practitioners.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon has called for a ban on the show on Philippine TV.

Filipino-Americans launch online petition vs ABC, Desperate Housewives

In an online petition,Filipino Americans demand for apology from ABC and Desperate Housewives:

As members and allies of the Filipino American community, we are writing to inform know that this type of derogatory remark was discriminatory and hurtful, and such a comment was not necessary to maintain any humor in the show. Additionally, a statement that devalues Filipinos in healthcare is extremely unfounded, considering the overwhelming presence of Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the medical field.

Blog Reactions:
MarcherieFrancine: “It is very unfair and we all know that there are many good doctors who graduated in Philippines and are working in foreign countries.”
Blogadeur: Blame the writer and not the actress. And we should always welcome criticisms – bad or good.
PinoyBlogero: “Boycotting Desperate Housewives would just be a waste of time.”
Boregasmic: Can you honestly believe that our doctors suck that much that they have to become a punchline in an American TV show created by a gay person (Marc Cherry) who is presumably liberal and not predisposed to racial slurs such as this?
CrazyAdventures: “I can live with it as a reminder of how we need to improve the Philippine Educational system.”
WakeTrex: “ABC could care less Filipinos boycotting the show.”
TeaAndCrackers(Script) writers should really research into their claims, even though comical, before putting it out there in front of 19 million viewers.

What Teri Hatcher’s dialogue really meant?

Let’s review:

“Okay, before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? Coz I would just like to make sure they are not from some med school in the Philippines.

Teri Hatcher’s dialogue (as Susan) was simply saying she wants to make sure the doctor’s diplomas are not fake.

The problem of fake diplomas in the Philippines

The problem of fake diplomas has been a lingering issue even among school authorities in the Philippines. It has become an urban legend especially in the city capital of Manila, where one can buy a diploma of choice from some hole-in-the-wall printeries along Recto Ave. in Sta. Cruz district in the middle of the so-called University Belt.

An article in Asia Times Online written by Miriam Grace Go reports:

There’s an entire street in Manila where shops are known to produce fake diplomas, transcripts of records, theses, even professional licenses.

And from a Philippine Daily Inquirer report last August 1:

Security features in diplomas — similar to those used in money — may soon prevent the rampant selling of fake diplomas in the streets of Manila …. The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) is set to start the implementation of the securitization of school documents such as diplomas, transcripts of records, and special orders by next semester following direct consultations with both public and private schools.

Manila Mayor cracks down on diploma mills

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim Jr., also known as “Dirty Harry” for his tough-talk, ordered a crackdown last month on printeries involved in the manufacture of fake diplomas and other public documents. At least 10 people were arrested.

He said:

“We hope to erase the image of Manila as the country’s ‘fake diploma capital,’ a reputation it has earned these past several years.”