CBS' Madam Secretary is a US TV series where actress Tea Leoni plays the title role of fictional US Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord. Last week, the show made headlines because the trailer for the 15th episode of its 3rd season showed Leoni's character punching the fictional Philippine President Datu Andrada (Joel de la Fuente). Apparently, the Pinoy character had made advances towards McCord.
The Philippine embassy in Washington DC didn't like that particular detail. In fact, the embassy has expressed its dismay in a letter addressed to CBS and released to the media on March 7. The letter lamented, "This highly negative portrayal of our Head of State not only casts doubt on the respectability of the Office of the Philippine President but also denigrates [the] way our nation navigates foreign affairs."
Despite the Philippine embassy's letter, the episode titled Break in Diplomacy, aired as scheduled on March 12 (US time). ABS-CBN News Online provided a very detailed recap.
So what happened? (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
The episode started with US Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Leoni) headed for Southeast Asia to finalize the Singapore Interchange. This pertains to forging "a meaningful territorial accord with all the countries of the Asia Pacific including China."
However, a complication arises when Philippine President Datu Andrada (De la Fuente) delivered a speech wherein he stated that his country is done "living in the shadow of the United States." This posed major hurdle for the Singapore Interchange.
At this point, McCord says that she would like to go to Manila first to counter Andrada’s position "with a little face to face diplomacy."
In Manila, McCord has a one-on-one meeting with President Andrada at his office. They begin to talk shop. McCord offers Andrada some military hardware to back Andrada's goal to turn the Philippines into a superpower. At this point, Andrada comments that he "finds it sexy when a woman talks about drones." Then, as McCord turns to leave, Andrada suddenly gropes her from behind. Startled, McCord punches Andrada in the face. Andrada ends up with a bloody nose.
Back in the US, McCord opts to keep quiet about the incident in Manila. She's bent on making the Singapore Interchange happen. However, Andrada was already making moves against it. It was said that he was "gradually allowing China to take control over the Philippines."
McCord and her colleagues scramble to find something to use as leverage against Andrada. They discover that he had the habit of sexually harassing women. A Filipina victimized by Andrada goes to McCord's office and reveals that she was paid off "not to keep quiet for being sexually harassed by the President but to shut her mouth about something 'much bigger and more damaging.'" She agrees to blow the whistle on Andrada if she would be granted an asylum in the US.
McCord is then shown making a video call to Andrada. She opens by asking him about the state of his nose. Then, she "punches" him again with the revelation that the US government knows "about the tens of millions of dollars he has taken from Chinese companies to sell the Philippines out to enrich himself."
Thus, Andrada is forced to keep his ties with the US government.
The verdict? Well, while most Filipinos would immediately associate the fictional Philippine leader with the real one, US viewers actually thought it was the show's clever way of making a commentary against US President Donald Trump.
I’m getting the sense that this episode of Madam Secretary about the unhinged president of the Philippines might just be about someone else…— Hollie V. Beg (@hvbeg) March 14, 2017
I see Madam Secretary has made Trump President of the Philippines.— Tales of a Spoonie???? (@MsJayTeeRattray) March 13, 2017
@DavidCornDC Madam Secretary is hilarious. Made a new Philippines leader as a Trump character.— Larry Lamb (MN) (@Larry_Lamb_MN) March 13, 2017
Watched Madam Secretary tonite.They described the president of the Philippines just as Trump acts, coincidence?Good show— Donna (@solaketahoeca) March 13, 2017
Tonight's episode of Madam Secretary on CBS made the Philippines president sound like the media's portrayal of @realDonaldTrump. Sneaky...— Terry Hunt (@TerryHunt1974) March 13, 2017