Bitag

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Bitag / Bitag Live
Format Investigative and public affairs show
Created by Ben Tulfo & BST Tri-Media Productions and News5
Developed by News5
Directed by Ben Tulfo
Starring Ben Tulfo
Country of origin Philippines
Production
Executive producer(s) Charmaine Mateo-Getongco
JP Barcelona
Michelle Ferrer
Eunice Garcia
Producer(s) Ben Tulfo
Editor(s) Albert Cortez
Christine Marie P. Barawed
Christian Dioneda
Christopher N. Latras
Running time 45 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel Syndicated – currently PTV (Bitag)
AksyonTV (Bitag Live)
Original run September 14, 2002 – present
External links
Website

Bitag (literally Trap) is an investigative and public service program hosted by Ben Tulfo and produced by BST Tri-Media Productions that airs in the Philippines. Launched on September 14, 2002, it first aired on Associated Broadcasting Company (now TV5) before moving the following year to Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) before returning again to TV5. It is currently aired in syndication on the government-owned People's Television Network. During its launch, Ben described it as an investigative show like no other that strays away from the "packaged" aggressive image that the Tulfo clan is known for by adopting a more cut-throat, in-your-face approach. Its success also spawned a recap (later talk) show that aired during weekday mornings on UNTV as Bitag Live, and simulcast on radio through DZME and DWUN. As of February 2013, Bitag Live is currently aired on AksyonTV and simulcast on DWFM.[1]

Bitag is also a segment of the TV5 public service program T3: Reload, where Ben co-hosts with brothers Erwin Tulfo and Raffy Tulfo.

Format[edit]

An episode usually contains 3 different cases set to stock film, music and industrial sound effects sardonically narrated by Ben before wrapping it up with an educational segment sponsored by PAGCOR. Bitag operates semi-autonomously, conducting reconnaissance and surveillance and deploys their own agents as undercovers. When enough intelligence is gathered, Ben coordinates with the local authorities to plan the manner of arrest and follows them with his convoy of security back-ups and camera men to document the entire procedure and its aftermath. In accordance with Ben's eschewal of "drama" and production in favor of "real reality", most cases air days after the shoot with minor cuts and editing used only to fit the documented footage under 10 minute segments. This is further proven by Ben's occasional absence in his AksyonTV show Bitag Live on weekdays, when he personally oversees certain case operations.

The programs segments are classified according to their nature:

  • Operations, which document actual Bitag operations in coordination with law enforcement elements.
  • Updates, or follow-up reports on the status of successful Bitag operations.
  • Kilos Pronto segments, which showcase immediate action or assistance on complaints or concerns.
  • Akto segments, usually depicting irregularities or "questionable" situations unexpectedly encountered by Bitag (caught in the act).
  • Wanted, a new segment featuring the apprehension of a "wanted" criminal.
  • Biblically Speaking, a biblical related segment hosted by Bro. Eli Soriano. This was only seen during the program's UNTV years.
  • Rewind, replays of existing episodes, often as reminders to the public.

For safety reasons, the Bitag strike force is fully armed and trained in self-defense disciplines (including Tulfo himself) and comprises professional security personnel. They are also allowed to carry their firearms in airplanes and vessels provided they surrender it prior to departure. However, the team still makes it a point to request assistance from the local authorities when dwelling in unfamiliar territory in accordance with the law.

Bitag was originally pitched to other TV networks but an unidentified "Tulfo" was opposed to it [2]

Bitag Live[edit]

In 2004, UNTV provided Ben with his own daily morning show, Bahala si Bitag (taking its name from his bi-weekly newspaper column of the same name) where Ben fields questions and complaints from callers in addition to showing re-runs of cases for the purpose of alerting the public. The show has since renamed to "Bitag Live."

The show underwent through a series of changes in conjunction with their tagline of "continuous change for the better", incorporating their Kilos Pronto segment (from Bitag) into their show as a live help line and updated the stale set with a more modern look - most noticeably their use of a Plasma TV backdrop. (Those were later removed.) BITAG Live also has invited guests to speak regarding cases BITAG currently holds, or to speak regarding current issues. They also add a religious portion Biblically Speaking hosted by Bro. Eli Soriano.

In 2007, Ben started prefacing lectures with "were taking care of business" when showing his subjects how Bitag would deal with the matter. Consequently, Takin' Care of Business by Bachman-Turner Overdrive is used as the theme song on one of their remixed ads.

Late in the show's UNTV tenure, it also added lifestyle-related segments. In 2013, the program found a new home on TV5's free-to-air UHF station AksyonTV; the said station also airs brothers Erwin and Raffy's own programs Punto Asintado and Wanted sa Radyo respectively, as well as T3: Reload, all of which also simulcast on radio through DWFM.

Appearance of other Tulfo Siblings in Bitag[edit]

In 2006, Erwin Tulfo, Ben's younger brother and a contracted but underused employee of ABS-CBN, officially joined Bitag, and Bahala si Bitag was renamed to Bahala sina Ben at Erwin as both would answer calls and discuss subjects on air equally in addition to having his own segment (under the motif Mission-X) on its main show. The pairing did not last long and BSTs title has since reverted to the previous title after Erwin left to team up with his other brothers Ramon Tulfo and Raffy Tulfo in the show Isumbong mo sa Tulfo Brothers on RPN-9. The latter aired its final episode on August 12, 2006 [3]

Facing charges of libel, Erwin re-joined Bitag on March 1, 2007 albeit in a lesser capacity. Erwin often accompany Ben during high-profile cases or works individually, no longer sharing hosting duties on BST. Back then, Erwin maintains a subgroup called Mission-X, as well as its own separate action center, that peers with Bitag's.

Ben and Erwin occasionally combine their workforce (Bitag and Mission-X) when necessary. There were times Erwin handled certain BITAG cases and encounters the suspects themselves in lieu of Ben, particularly in sensitive cases that requires a little more restraint.

However, Erwin left Bitag and has since spun off his own brand of public service to TV5's Tutok Tulfo.

Raffy from Wanted Sa Radyo has also been featured in Bitag on October 11, 2008, in an episode of him helping out on an investigation, and in a drug den raid. Similarly,[Ramon Tulfo, the eldest of the siblings, has also appeared in BITAG as well, during the drug den raid in Mabalacat, Pampanga. All 4 public service brands by the mentioned siblings (Bitag, Erwin's Mission X, Raffy's Wanted Sa Radyo and Ramon's Isumbong Mo Kay Tulfo; Raffy and Ramon's tandem is also called Tulfo Brothers alternatively.) has united together at least once in a given operation.

Ramon Tulfo's Isumbong Mo Kay Tulfo made a comeback to DZIQ, PDI's radio arm, before returning to DWIZ. Ramon's younger brothers would eventually end up as hosts for TV5's public service program T3: Reload, although Ramon later became a co-host himself briefly prior to the infamous incident with Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barretto.

Unique elements[edit]

Although the concept of investigative and public service programs are hardly new on local television, there are still differences between the show and most of its rivals. While their peers are restricted entirely to the confines of their studio/shooting location or function exclusively as "hosts", Ben considers himself as an investigator (but still he was a media personality), and is on the field most of the time while still regarding his prey with the same unabashed contempt, regardless of proximity. Most importantly, the show doesn't discriminate and has handled cases both small and large and is nonchalant with regards to the background of the felons they pursue - be it the child of a network executive, high-ranking police officers, government institutions, city mayors, foreigners, relatives of influential entities or huge crime syndicates - as host Ben Tulfo always says, "Walang sinasanto't walang sinisino ang patibong ng Bitag!" (The snare of Bitag recognizes and discriminates no one!)

Host[edit]

Perhaps the shows main draw is its host (and also producer and director) Ben Tulfo who subscribes to the adage "it takes a wolf to catch a wolf" which, more often that not, leads to precarious situations that he immerses himself with gusto. Each case, Ben finds himself getting in the face of his subjects, be it ordinary suspects or policemen - sparring verbally (often laced with profanity) and at times, physically. Being the shows producer as well, he prefers an approach and presentation that lets the viewers see the true face of reality, no matter how grim or disturbing it is - the lack of a formal script means no dramatizations or re-enactments, as said by the shows tagline, "Hindi ito drama, di tulad ng iba!", and guarantees audiences of raw, documented footage of events as they happened.

Ben, at one point, adapts his show title as his moniker or nickname, calling himself Bitag.

Reaction and Controversy[edit]

As a result of his brazenfaced exploits, Ben has received generous praise from supporters who find his brand of crusaders zeal efficient when dealing with the scourges of society, and also jeers from those who consider his behavior repulsive and inappropriate for a media personality.

His aforementioned recklessness has also led to several tension-filled incidents that range from minor physical confrontations to an actual firearm being pointed at him and his staff, prompting many to speculate if he will ever tone down his approach in the interest of his own public image and safety. These gripes are regularly brought up by furious viewers, to which Ben contends that as long as his actions are for the greater good, he will continue to press on with his methods regardless.

It has competition from ABS-CBN's XXX: Exklusibong, Explosibong, Exposé that was hosted by Julius Babao Pinky Webb and Alex Santos. Ex-Bitag operatives comprise most of its staff and the shows title appears to lampoon the suffix "X-treme" in Bitag. Another competing investigative television show of this genre of public service, although in a later timeslot, is GMA Network's Imbestigador.

Other competitions include his other brother's brand of public service, including Wanted sa Radyo, Isumbong Mo Kay Tulfo, and his former co-host's brand, Tutok Tulfo.

Bitag acknowledges the existence of such other shows, and he insists that Bitag, oriented to public service, is out of the ordinary because of its unusual focus on real reality, unabridged by typical broadcasting standards.

Ben is not afraid nor ashamed of exposing anomalies committed even by his own employees at BST Tri-Media, in which has resulted in the expulsion of two of his employees to date.

Principles[edit]

Tulfos guiding principles are plain and simple, which he iterates at the end of the program:

Makikita ang katotohanan kung sumbungan ang pag-uusapan sa Bitag. Ang pagtitiwalay nakakamit dahil sa resulta - GAWA, HINDI NGAWA. Dito nakakamit ang salitang RESPETO.

If you're talking about complaints and public service, Bitag addresses and reveals the truth and reality. Results earn you trust - walk the walk, not talk the talk. Not whining on the problem, just acting upon the solution. It is through this that you earn respect.

Episodes[edit]

For more details on this topic, see List of Bitag episodes.

Awards and recognitions[edit]

  • Winner, Best Public Service Program - 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 & 2011 PMPC Star Awards for Television
    • On IBC 13 (2005)
    • On UNTV 37 (2007 & 2008, 2010 & 2011)
  • Winner, Best Public Service Program Host for Ben Tulfo - 2005, 2008 & 2009 PMPC Star Awards for Television

Return to TV5[edit]

Bitag's contract on IBC has expired, and he did not renew. Since the programming of the network has changed to sports (AKTV on IBC). Bitag was forced to move to UNTV's Saturday night slots]. Ben Tulfo eventually moved his TV show to AksyonTV, the sister channel of his former network TV5. He teamed up with his other brothers from the other stations and made a TV show called T3: Reload (renamed from T3: Kapatid Sagot Kita following the infamous tirade to Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barretto regarding the assault of elder brother Ramon in May 2012). On October 14, 2011, he returned to TV5. Another spin-off premiered on AksyonTV entitled Pinoy US Cops Ride Along where it chronicles the operations of Filipino police officers in the United States. Both Bitag and Pinoy US Cops later moved to the People's Television Network, albeit in a producer's cut variety and in broadcast syndication,[4] while the UNTV version continued to air Fridays in a commercial-free tandem with Pinoy US Cops: Ride Along in a director's cut.

Ben became involved in the controversy of T3 when he, along with brothers Erwin and Raffy, vowed that the assault towards their eldest brother Mon would not go unanswered.

At the start of 2013, UNTV dropped Bitag, Pinoy US Cops and Bitag Live from its list of programs. Bitag Live then found a home on 92.3 News FM and AksyonTV; furthermore the Bitag segment on T3: Reload was revived after it was renamed 'Caught in the Act' following the said program's reformat.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]