We came across an article reporting on a petition for the firing of Robert Blair Carabuena from Philip Morris, where he works as a Resourcing Supervisor. Mr. Carabuena, in case you’ve been logged out from Twitter and Facebook the last couple of days, was caught on video chastising, intimidating, and physically manhandling an MMDA enforcer who had reportedly accosted him for beating a red light.
The Philippine social media sphere jumped on top of the issue, raking him over the coals in ways unheard of since the glory days of Christopher Lao.
Much has been said of the belligerent behavior displayed by Mr. Carabuena, as well as quite a bit on other, less consequential matters – his physique, his presumed dietary habits, his wardrobe choices, his choice of university. Three days after the fact, he remains a trending topic on Twitter. Various memes have gone viral on Facebook, while demanding he get his virtual comeuppance.
In the meantime, Robert Blair Carabuena has been either pressured or shamed into taking down his public Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles. The latest word is that he has been suspended by his employer as an initial disciplinary measure.
A case for Direct Assault was filed by the MMDA on the behalf of Saturnino Fabros, the MMDA enforcer shown in the video getting the smack laid down on him. The process is in motion, facts will be learned, a verdict shall be passed, and justice will be served. And yet, the social media onslaught on him continues.
Vigilance and a sense of civic duty are admirable, but so are accountability and discernment. Has social media gone too far in the crucifixion of Robert Blair Carabuena?
He Says: I do not condone what Robert Blair Carabuena did. Physical violence, unless in self-defense, is something I do not feel has any place in polite society.
But at the same time, I can relate with the rage that came over him when he did what he did. What motorist hasn’t felt the same anger and frustration towards traffic enforcers at one time or another – when they feel unfairly singled out, when they deal with their nonchalant arrogance, when they perceive a lack of integrity in being weaseled into a small bribe in exchange for getting let off the hook for a traffic violation? It’s a real red emotion that comes over you, a heating of the blood so sudden that it just engulfs you. Which is why I think the social media sphere reacted so immediately and so viscerally the way it did to Mr. Carabuena’s emotional outburst: It understood him.
In a great deal of the social media outrage I’ve seen over this traffic altercation, the overriding feeling I get is one of self-righteousness. How could you have given in to your rage, Mr. Robert Blair Carabuena, it preaches, when we – praise Buddha! – are able to practice restraint and temperance in our daily commutes? Tsk tsk! You, sir, are a bad, bad boy.
Social media has transformed Robert Blair Carabuena into what every one wants to convince one’s self of one’s own goodness: a villain. He gave in to his rage and mauled a traffic enforcer, and therefore he’s a bad man, a VILLAIN, it preaches. We, on the other hand, moderate our own emotions and don’t get into fistfights, therefore we’re good and just and admirable – we’re HEROES.
Social media is capable of mobilizing good efforts on a massive scale – just look at the #RescuePH efforts conducted in the recent Manila floodings. But in the case of Mr. Carabuena, it is also capable of feeding a beast of self-replicating bullying and abuse onto an individual, even after due process has already taken over.
Social media has become powerful. Some people embrace that power responsibly, some just get drunk on it. There’s a reason why Spider-Man has transcended comic books to become a true pop cultural icon – he taught us something true and real and everlasting: With great power comes great responsibility.
What Robert Blair Carabuena did was mean, it showed a lack of judgment, it was an outright case of bullying. By all means, ask his employer to issue a formal reprimand. Have him take anger management classes. Ask that his driver’s license be suspended. Send him to John Robert Powers for some personality development, for crying out loud.
Just don’t ask for him to be fired.
Zee Says: Violence in any form or manner is unacceptable in any society. It goes beyond what is human and I feel that is what created such a flow of outrage over social media.
I am a non-driver and cannot relate to rage drivers feel against law enforcers like the MMDA. I cannot relate to the blood-curdling anger a driver feels when asked to stop, and are accused of a violation they know they have not committed. I can’t and will not even try.
What evokes outrage for me in this situation is the blatant lack of respect of one human to another. In fact, it was two people who just did their roles: a driver (civilian) and a law enforcer (person in authority). Which makes it even a tad worse. Thus the Direct Assault case
In my head, it will never be a VILLAIN (Carabuena) – HERO (Repressed Person) scenario. Emotions take part in this stream of thought. It will always be who was right and wrong. Therefore, I call Robert Blair Carabuena an “Assailant” and Saturnino Fabros a “Victim. This is how some people have assessed the situation. Whether you look at the situation from an emotional, empathetic Villain-Hero point of view, or in a very academic perspective of Assailant-Victim, the situation evoked a reaction.
Social media was a microphone for people who reacted. It replicated, and re-broadcast what would otherwise have been a small discussion at the neighborhood sari-sari store. It brought to light a behavior that could easily have been forgotten and swept under the rug. But just like any story, big or small, the contents of the status, tweet, or page of the person clicking on the “send” button are a reflection of oneself.
Some contents fall rightfully back into the Assailant-Victim scenario but this time, with Carabuena as the victim. Re-broadcasting a story for information, is far different from defamation of character through name-calling or intrusion of privacy such as posting personal numbers and his home address. There are those who react through actions like calling the number or actually going to the home. This of course can be characterized as harassment. Up until the pending legislation on cyber bullying gets passed, social media in the Philippines will have to rely on every individual’s moral compass.
The petition for Philip Morris to terminate Robert Blair Carabuena’s employment is the decision of the private entity. No petition can dictate or affect the employment of an individual unless they are in public service and/or with just cause. Although, as you browse through the Philip Morris Code of Conduct in Ethics circa 2008, the first page shows this:
Social media can be a powerful tool when paired with the correct judgment and a strong moral compass. Right now, some people act like the typical “walang pulis, walang nakatingin, pwedeng gawin” online. Robert Blair Carabuena on the other hand acted in a very real, physical way against MMDA Traffic Constable Fabros, the “mamang pulis,” in a manner completely out of line, without referring to his inner moral compass.
As an HR practitioner, he should refer to this now more than ever, and assess what he should do based on his company’s values. His position as an HR executive relies on this and he owes it to himself to do the right thing this time around.
How do you feel about the issue? Leave us a comment below on whether or not you think social media has gone too far in the case of Robert Blair Carabuena.
[UPDATE] Robert Blair Carabuena has surrendered to the MMDA and issued a public apology both to the organization and to Traffic Constable Saturnino “Sonny” Fabros.