|This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (November 2011)|
|Bitag / Bitag Live|
|Created by||Ben Tulfo, BITAG Media Unlimited Inc and PTV|
|Directed by||Ben Tulfo|
|Presented by||Ben Tulfo|
|Country of origin||Philippines|
|Executive producer(s)||Carlo Carongoy
Kathleen Kasinee Esther Binarao
|Editor(s)||Christine Marie P. Barawed
John Carlo Mascariola
|Running time||45 minutes|
|Original network||Syndicated – currently PTV (2012-present)
formerly IBC (2003–2011)
ABC/TV5 (2002–2003, 2011–2012) (Bitag)
AksyonTV (2013–2016) (Bitag Live)
|Original release||September 14, 2002 – present|
Bitag (literally Trap) is an investigative and public service program hosted by Ben Tulfo and produced by BITAG Media Unlimited Inc (formerly 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. 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.
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.
There are times where government agencies themselves invite BITAG to document an impending operation, popularly with drug raids. This has occurred several times in the show, and one instance united the four Tulfo broadcasters together.
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.
- 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 Ben 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
BITAG first made its presence known in then ABC-5, making its mark in Philippine television. 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.
The show was unfortunately laid off and was syndicated to IBC-13.
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.
Moving to Aksyon TV and return to TV5
When the contract on IBC expired, Ben Tulfo 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, and now known as T3: Alliance).
On October 14, 2011, he officially 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, while the UNTV version continued to air Fridays in a commercial-free tandem with Pinoy US Cops: Ride Along in a director's cut.
At the start of 2013, Bitag left UNTV due to internal issues. 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. Coincidentally, 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.
In its Aksyon TV incarnation, it is an all-discussion segment where Ben Tulfo freely discusses relevant issues exclusively. It has since been extended all the way to social media, prominently in the program's Facebook presence, to reach out to overseas Filipinos.
Appearance of other Tulfo Siblings in Bitag
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
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 once again and has since spun off his own brand of public service to TV5's Tutok Tulfo, and focusing on T3 (in which Ben himself is a host too) with their other brother Raffy, and as a newscaster for Aksyon TV.
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, after years of dormancy, made a comeback to DZIQ, PDI's radio arm, before returning to DWIZ. He also peered with BITAG in a case involving a kidnapping of a Japanese national.
The three younger Tulfos would eventually end up as hosts for TV5's public service program T3: Reload, with their own respective public service brands all in the same TV station, although Ramon later became a co-host himself briefly prior to the infamous incident with Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barretto.
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!)
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. He has done this more frequently especially after establishing social media outlets.
Reaction and Controversy
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, formerly, ABS-CBN's XXX: Exklusibong, Explosibong, Exposé that was hosted by Julius Babao Pinky Webb and Alex Santos. 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 & Punto Asintado.
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.
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.
Awards and recognitions
- 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