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Local food brand sparks debate over accountability following April Fools' 'tattoo disaster'

By Brooke Villanueva Published Apr 02, 2024 5:11 pm Updated Apr 02, 2024 6:39 pm

A local takoyaki store stirred debate over accountability after a man allegedly took its April Fools’ joke seriously and got its logo inked on his forehead.

Pinoy food brand Taragis on Monday, April 1 said on their Facebook page that they will give P100,000 to the first person who will get a forehead tattoo of their logo. They asked their followers to click the photo for the full mechanics, only to see an “April Fools” graphic below it.

Later in the day, they talked about receiving various messages claiming that someone—who was later identified as Facebook user named Ramil Albano—took it to heart and executed it. 

“Let this serve as a reminder to us all how important reading comprehension is,” they said in a now-deleted statement. “It’s April Fools’ Day. Never trust anything or anyone. The same as any other day.”

“Taragis Takoyaki is not accountable for the events that occurred,” they stressed.

The incident made the rounds online and sparked a discussion among social media users. Some accused Taragis of being careless and insensitive as they noted that the latter should take accountabiity for it, while others pointed out it was obviously an April Fools' joke.

“[A] man got his forehead tattooed because of your post and yet you claim that you are not accountable?” an Internet user wrote on X, noting that April 1 “is literally a normal day [in the] calendar [of the] Philippine law.”

“Hindi lahat ng followers nila ay alam ang April Fools’ Day at educated enough to read it with comprehension,” another one commented. “Kapag pera ang pinaguusapan, lalo sa Pinas, may kakagat talaga [niyan]. They should be held accountable [for] their stupid post.”

Some social media users, meanwhile, said that the other party should have followed the instructions properly. “Hindi kasi binasa ang buong post na may April Fools' sa baba. It’s literally a common sense thing,” an X user tweeted.

“There were rules to begin with. Even if it wasn’t a prank, the fact that he did not read or check the entire photo, may have disqualified him if they weren’t followed. He had all the time to do so. The man, yes, was desperate but he isn’t stupid to make this kind of judgment,” a Facebook user said.

Who should be held accountable for the viral April Fools’ prank gone wrong?

What the law says

In a chat with PhilSTAR L!fe, Atty. Bettina Parado said Taragis could be held liable for damages under Article 21 of the Civil Code, which stresses that “any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs, or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.”

“Considering that Mr. Albano was induced by an advertisement promising P100,000 to do something irreparable, only to find out that it was a prank, can fall under the ambit of the Civil Code,” she said. 

Atty, Hyacinth Merioles, for her part, cited Article 2176 of the same Code on Quasi Delict, which provides that "whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done." 

She emphasized that there are certain elements that must be presented or proven based on jurisprudence. These include damage (injury) to the plaintiff; negligence, by act or ommission, of the defendant, or by some other person for whose act the defendant must respond; and connection of cause and effect between the fault or negligence of the defendant and the damage incurred by the plaintiff.

“In an action for quasi delict, the negligence or fault should be clearly established because it is the basis of the action,” she noted.

According to Atty. Chelsea Ariza, Article 122 of Republic Act No. 7394 (Consumer Act of the Philippines) can also be used as basis for this case as it states that a food brand “can be held accountable for false, misleading, or deceptive advertising.”

“If an individual suffers loss, damage, or injury because of such advertising, they have the right to file a legal complaint to seek damages, including attorney’s fees and costs of suit,” she explained. “This means if a food brand's advertising has negatively affected someone, that person can take legal action against the brand.”

Ariza told L!fe that while the tattoo may be considered a damage, it lies more on the “wasted effort made by the contestant.”

She said that the amount of money that should be paid as compensation, like the P100,000 mentioned, has to be decided in court as it would still depend on how much harm was caused.

“The penalties for engaging in deceptive advertising practices can include fines and imprisonment,” Ariza added.

PR and marketing professionals weigh in

Harold Geronimo, the former president of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines, called the incident a “clear proof that disinformation and misinformation can really succeed among our population.”

Geronimo, who has been in the PR and marketing industry for 20 years, stressed the importance of making sure that companies are “extra responsible” with what they post.

“Pranks and jokes should have proper and clear disclaimers,” he told L!fe.

Another PR and marketing professional who has more than a decade of experience in marketing and public relations also echoed what some users have pointed out online. While it was obviously an April Fools’ joke, she said not everyone could be aware of the trend as it’s only big in Western countries.

For her, the prize component in the post made it look real. “We just cannot play with the audience’s minds. Kapit sa patalim talaga,” she said in an interview with L!fe. “If this was, say, a high-end Japanese food brand, I highly doubt the customers would tattoo their logo on their forehead for P100,000. But seeing that the said brand caters to a lower market, do all of them really practice or know April Fools’? It’s important to consider who your patrons are.”

Geronimo, however, noted that there’s also such a thing as responsible consumption of social media information.

“When someone offers prizes, money, perks, privileges online, a responsible social media user should always double check and not bite the bait right away,” he said. “The sad reality is that there is still a huge chunk of social media users, not just in the Philippines but everywhere in the world, who are still ‘social media illiterate.’ What they see, they believe right away.”

“That is why it is important, more than ever, that communication groups, media practitioners, even advertisers and companies, do something for social media literacy,” he said.

PhilSTAR L!fe has reached out to Taragis Takoyaki and its owner as well as Ramil Albano for comment, but has yet to receive a reply.