Apr 24
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Ben Tulfo's 'bitag-style' of crime-fighting

Ben Tulfo of Bitag

Author: Ricardo F. Lo
Column: Funfare

He's a Tulfo, all right, but Ben insists that he's not a part of what he calls “the Tulfo package,” referring to his brothers Mon, Raffy and Erwin who are fearless crime-fighters.

“I have my own style,” said Ben Tulfo who has come to be known as Mr. Bitag (as in trap).

His style, “reel-reality investigative TV,” marks his crime-busting show on IBC Channel 13, simply called Bitag, which celebrated (“Quietly,” says Ben) its fifth anniversary last Sept. 14. Bitag (which Ben himself writes, directs and produces) stayed on ABC 5 for one year before it moved to IBC 13 (with a counterpart called Bahala si Bitag on UNTV, aired from 9 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday). Actually, Ben is a tri-media person. He writes a column for PM (Pang-Masa), this paper's sister publication, and hosts a program on dzME.

“I am happy with the ratings,” he said of Bitag which relentlessly “traps” criminals and other lawless elements. “I've patterned my show after a short-lived US TV show called Fight Back which was aired in 1988. That show taught citizens how to fight criminal elements.”

It's a risky, life-threatening mission but Ben finds fulfillment in it, never mind if it means leaving his house in the morning and, as he put it, “not knowing if I'd go home in one piece at night.”

The laying out of the Bitag usually starts with a complaint which Ben and his staff thoroughly investigate. A surveillance is conducted and once the tips (usually coming from a victim, an insider or an asset from within a syndicate) are confirmed, an “undercover” operation is launched hand-in-hand with law enforcers, and then followed by a reconnaisance. (From Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: Reconnaisance is a preliminary survey to gain information; esp: an exploratory military survey of enemy territory.)

Explains Ben, “During a reconnaisance, hindi mo alam kung makakalabas kang buhay o patay. It covers checking the terrain for safety and getting a clear picture of the target area.”

All clear? Time for the Bitag to be set up. The catch is usually bountiful.

Asked to name three of his most memorable — read: highly-risky — operations so far, Ben smiled.

“Too many to just name three.”

But he remembers his group's Bitag on a cybersex joint in Las Piñas City when a SWAT team mistook them for holduppers. There was some miscommunication and fortunately, no shootout took place. Or when Ben's group was nearly fired upon by a trigger-happy resident of a subdivision in a Laguna town, who refused to give them a “right of way” to an operation nearby. Or when his group found themselves in NPA territory in Bulacan.

You guessed it: Death threats come with the territory and, “battle-scarred” though he may be, Ben doesn't take any chances. You know, no harm in wearing a sando vest or having martial-arts-trained bodyguards or a gun (yes, licensed) tucked inconspicuously in his waist — that is, even if you yourself are trained in martial arts, specifically Yaw Yan (yaw is from sayaw and yan is from kamatayan).

They say that the dog that barks doesn't usually bite, and it follows, according to Ben, that he should be more careful and cautious when the one making any threat isn't making any noise.

“Dapat mas maingat kapag walang banta,” he said.

And never, never take the same route every day.

I surmised that when Ben came to this interview at a Starbucks outlet in the Tomas Morato area in Quezon City, he took a circuitous route from wherever he and his ubiquitous but unobtrusive bodyguards came from. From Starbucks, I bet that he and company went still another route, the better to mislead and confuse the enemy, you know.

It's “reel-reality,” you see.

So how long will he be on the job?

“As long as I live, I will always be a part of the change for the better,” he said, hoping that followers of Bitag will not just learn “how to fight back” but also to be brave and have guts enough to help fight crime.

Asked how, Ben said, “They can call me up for 'leads' and/or 'tips'.”

Is he, perhaps, driven by any political ambition?

No, stressed Ben.

“I don't have any such ambition, not even to run for barangay captain.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph)

Source: The Philippine Star