Carabuena says ‘sorry’ but raps still onBy Jaymee T. Gamil, Julie Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When he finally surfaced, Robert Blair Carabuena looked the part of a corporate executive, but in his hand was a note of contrition meant to redeem an image jeered and wildly caricatured on cyberspace.
The Philip Morris human resource manager who was recently caught on video assaulting a traffic enforcer showed up Thursday morning at the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) headquarters to issue a public apology, admitting the bad behavior (“hindi kagandahang asal”) he showed on the road.
He later went to the Quezon City prosecutors’ office to answer the complaint for direct assault filed by MMDA aide Saturnino “Sonny” Fabros—and there met a hostile crowd that tried to pelt him with water bottles.
In a press conference called by MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino, Carabuena, accompanied by a lawyer, read out a statement in Filipino: “The bad behavior I showed on Aug. 11 is no secret to many. To you, Mang Sonny, and your six children, I ask for forgiveness.”
“This past week, I felt the public outrage over my misconduct since the video came out in the media. I thought it was best for me to stay home in the meantime, as I needed to seek counsel from my family and friends, as well as from my lawyer.”
He pleaded with Tolentino, who ordered his driver’s license revoked, to let him drive again “because I need it for my job.” Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. earlier suspended Carabuena from work pending the outcome of the investigation into the incident.
Tolentino said the MMDA would accept Carabuena’s apology but that the motorist still had to face Fabros’ complaint.
“It is not enough that he apologize. We have laws and he has to be held liable for them. There is a process to be followed,” Tolentino said.
The official also maintained that Carabuena can’t get his license back just yet. “This incident is an example showing there’s no distinction between the rich and the poor on the road,” Tolentino stressed.
Carabuena immediately left the MMDA office in Makati City after reading his statement. He had to be escorted on his way out by the police and MMDA personnel “because he is afraid he might get hurt, yelled at and humiliated,” Tolentino said.
The MMDA chair wryly noted: “He doesn’t want what he did to others to happen to him.”
Reached on the phone, Fabros, who was en route to the Quezon City prosecutors’ office when the MMDA press conference was in progress, admitted “feeling nervous” about meeting his attacker for the first time since the incident.
“But I will pursue this case. He needs to face the case against him. That’s all I want,” said the 47-year-old widower, who had just been promoted and whose frugal Quezon City home got a surprise makeover this week courtesy of peers and superiors who donated building materials and some appliances.
The face-off between the two men, however, didn’t happen.
Carabuena arrived first at the office of chief prosecutor Donald Lee, who was not yet in. He left after about 30 minutes, still escorted by a policewoman and an MMDA officer.
But his lawyer, Cesar Ortega, stayed put and explained to reporters that his client had “to go to the hospital as he was not feeling well.”
Ortega said his client was already “repentant” and that the Aug. 11 incident caught him in “an unguarded moment.”
According to the lawyer, some bystanders hurled plastic water bottles at his client on their way to the prosecutors’ office, but they hit a police officer instead.
“We cannot avoid those kinds of reactions. But my client is repentant and wants forgiveness and a second chance,” Ortega said.
When Fabros arrived later, he said he accepted the apology “but it might be better if he would tell that to me in person.”
The traffic enforcer was accompanied by MMDA lawyers Victor Nuñez and Rochelle Macapili-Ona for the preliminary investigation into his complaint at the office of Assistant City Prosecutor Victorino Badua Jr.
Also present were TV5 researcher Karen Keith and crewman Romeo Molon Jr., who by chance witnessed the incident and got it on video.
The 27-second clip, which had since gone viral, showed Carabuena berating and slapping an unresisting Fabros as Carabuena’s brother Robert Benjamin looked on.
According to Fabros, Carabuena ignored his hand signal for the motorist to stop at the intersection of Capitol Drive and Tandang Sora, Quezon City. The brothers then got off Carabuena’s green Volvo when Fabros gave the car a tap to make them pull over for the violation.