Organizer: Not a joke, but we achieved our purpose
MANILA – Photos of men wearing what seemed to be police caps and shirts – and adult diapers – captured netizens’ attention and shock in the middle of the social media coverage of Pope Francis on Sunday.
Even a well-known Asian newspaper was quoted as saying, “Some 27,000 policemen, a few seen wearing adult diapers without their pants on, were on hand to control the crowd.”
Things escalated quickly, however. The disgust that the netizens expressed against the “policemen” quickly shifted to the organizer. The parade of the adult diaper-wearing policemen was revealed to be a “social experiment.”
In a text message, PNP spokesman and Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor clarified the men in the photos were indeed not policemen.
“We do not do experiments like that, as I already stated before, policemen do not wear diapers. It is an unfair portrayal of policemen who worked hard under the sun and rain to ensure the safety of the Pope and the devotees who came to see his Holiness,” he told ABS-CBNnews.com.
“With all the praises from all walks of life and the Media for the Police as a result of the successful event of the Pope’s visit, may I request that you focus on the positive side rather than the negative,” he said.
Asked if the prankster will be facing sanctions, he said: “We devote more of our time to serve and protect our people.”
PR practitioner and freelance journalist Tony Ahn took the pictures, which quickly captured the attention of netizens.
The American Ahn said he took photos of the diaper-wearing policemen on Sunday morning near the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas while he and his fiancée were walking towards a papal event.
He said the “cameraman” also following the “policemen” was wearing a shirt with an ABS-CBN logo. “I’m an American, when I first saw them, they looked real officers to me.”
The “cameraman” turned out to be blogger Paul Agabin.
Ahn said Agabin had called out his name as they were friends on Facebook. Asked about what was happening, Agabin supposedly told him it was a “social experiment” but did not clarify what it was for and if the men with him were real policemen.
Ahn took to social media to post the photos, and netizens quickly reacted.
The reaction could be connected to a hotly debated issue just before the papal event. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) had ordered its men to wear adult diapers so that they can focus on security operations for the Feast of the Black Nazarene.
When the photos became viral, Agabin commented on the thread that it was only a social experiment.
Netizens said it was a bad joke and done in bad taste, and said the organizer was only seeking attention at a time when people are trying to connect with their faith.
“How is investigating the effect of wearing diapers a social experiment? What’s society got to do with diapers and the effects of wearing it? Is it a norm to wear a diaper in the society?” a netizen said.
Another added: “From the point of view of public relations (as in, if I were Mr. Paul Agabin’s public relations “consultant”), I would have to say: sheesh, medyo bad timing ang “social experiment” na ito, ha. Not kidding, man. If you don’t take steps now to clarify what this was all about with as many netizens as possible, a sizeable number of people are going to think that this was a tasteless public mockery of the rank and file officers themselves—AFTER they’ve delivered the biggest security operation Metro Manila has ever seen, in sun and rain. Baka le-lechonin ka ng mga tao online, aray. If you want to avoid any backlash from the Internet, better start posting your explanations now, if you haven’t already done so.”
Ahn said Agabin had tried to explain himself, but has since deleted his posts on the Facebook thread.
Asked for comment, Project Awesome’s Agabin said he intentionally did not tell Ahn that what he saw were not real policemen before the photos were posted online.
He apologized for the “social experiment” but said the purpose was attained.
“We would like to apologize to the public for what happened. It’s not our intention to harm the image of the police,” he said.
He said it was to raise awareness on the need for more portalets.
“And because of this crowd reaction, we advise the government to increase the portalets for major Philippine events as 12 portalets can’t accommodate 6 million Filipinos including the officers,” he said.
He said the company Project Awesome Philippines has been doing similar social experiments in the past. According to its Facebook account, Project Awesome calls itself “the Philippine’s very first & only public stunt group where we do social experiments and street mobs.”
He said the stunt also showed another side of the story: “So now, we’re having a sensationalized media PR problem.”
He explained social media immediately rushed “to the next big thing, just to be the first to cover it (without doing research first). But I don’t blame them, it’s really our fault, we should have been more careful with our ideas.”