Movie and television actor Raymart Santiago and veteran columnist Ramon Tulfo engaged in a fistfight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 before noon yesterday.
Airport police Lt. Demetrio Sison said Santiago, his wife Claudine Barretto and several companions had just arrived from Boracay before noon and were waiting for their luggage at the conveyor area when the melee occurred.
He said the crewmember apologized to Barretto and said that her luggage was left behind in Aklan but they were doing their best to load it in their next flight.
Tulfo, who also arrived from Davao via a Cebu Pacific flight, was at the other conveyor belt and noticed the incident.
He said the ground attendant was on the verge of tears but he initially sympathized with the woman after learning from onlookers that she had been complaining of “an offloaded luggage,” which had been a subject of critical columns he wrote before. Tulfo said he did not recognize the woman as Barretto until he walked toward the airline’s complaints desk.
He said he pulled out his mobile phone and took photos of the scene, “which would form part of a future column.”
The columnist said that when he started taking pictures a man from the actress’ group, whom he later recognized as Santiago, approached him and “demanded to get my phone which I used in taking shots.”
The columnist said he refused to surrender his phone, which irritated the actor and his companions who started ganging up on him.
Tulfo said he could not recall who threw the first punch as he was hit at his blindside and the punches kept coming.
While trying to fight his way out, Tulfo said Barretto, who was nearby, repeatedly cursed him. He admitted that he might have hit the woman with a kick as he tried to fight back at his aggressors.
“This is the real persona of an actress who is always portrayed (in the movies) as a martyr,” he said.
He said Barretto continued “cussing” 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.”
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 already submitted himself 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, Tulfo said, adding he could have passed out if it continued a bit longer.
A source at NAIA told The STAR that Tulfo and Santiago initially patched up things and promised not to file charges against each other, but Barretto, who suffered a leg injury, was determined to press charges.
Tulfo said he is going to file a complaint if Barretto pursues the case against him.
By Rudy Santos