Jay-Jay Barretto (left), brother of Claudine (bottom, right) and Gretchen (top, right), says, "Look, I'm close to Claudine. I'm close to Gretchen. But Claudine has got to stop, kawawa na si Gretchen!"

Photo: Facebook/joaquin.barretto/ Melo Balingit (Claudine) / Noel Orsal (Gretchen)

Words have been flying fast in a story that reveals the deepening rift within the Barretto family, whose most famous members are showbiz personalities Gretchen, Marjorie, and Claudine.

Yesterday morning, April 24, the public woke up to a letter of the Barretto matriarch, Estrella (better known as Inday), praising her youngest, Claudine, 33, and bashing her prettiest, Gretchen, 43.

In the course of siding with one child over another, Inday Barretto also ended up confirming a number of rumors floating around showbiz. She confirmed that the row between Gretchen and Claudine has had a long history and is still ongoing. She confirmed that she and Gretchen have been estranged as mother and daughter for an even longer time. And she confirmed that actor Raymart Santiago, husband of Claudine of seven years, has left the conjugal home.

The highly-charged letter—which called Claudine, in essence, "angelic" and Gretchen "evil"—first appeared on Ricky Lo's column in The Philippine Star.  (Click here for full report.)

By early evening of the same day, another member of the Barretto family, Joaquin "Jay-Jay" Barretto, had sent his own letter to PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) and other media outlets, this time enjoining his mother Inday to "stop before you ruin the entire family."

On the same day, Claudine Barretto responded to GMA News reporter Nelson Canlas's request for an interview on the family row by saying she would speak her piece "sa tamang oras." The actress, who has not been visible in showbiz circles for months, also said she had first to "gather strength."

Just hours after he released his statement on April 24, Jay-Jay Barretto gave an exclusive phone interview to PEP.

A BROTHER'S DILEMMA. No one remembers Jay-Jay Barretto, 51, ever being on the spotlight before this.

A former government servant and now a businessman, Jay-Jay has not been heard to weigh on the many public troubles of his nationally famous sisters: movie, television star, and celebrity endorser Gretchen; erstwhile actress and endorser, now Caloocan City Councilor Marjorie; and multiawarded actress, former ABS-CBN prized talent, and celebrity endorser Claudine.

Why is he speaking up now?

"I couldn't stand it anymore," Jay-Jay said in the phone interview with this writer in the late hours of April 24. "Claudine has been acting up for so long."

Of his youngest sister, he adds, "We want to help. But she's into things, difficult things... Claudine can't be controlled. She's fighting everyone, but she's manipulating my mom and dad into believing that it's Gretchen that's hitting her. I have to put a stop to this."

Admitting that the now very-public issue is hurting their entire family, Jay-Jay says, "We've been very divided since Claudine started acting up, and I felt that I had to say something. Especially when my mom wrote that letter—what was that about? Why did she do that?"

Saying that he spoke to his brother Mito, the eldest in a brood of seven, before releasing his own statement, Jay-Jay recalled, "He said 'It's your call.' I had no choice. I never wanted this to get big.

"We're all in agreement—my brothers, Marjorie, all my siblings, although one is in the States. We're solid on this. We're all affected by this thing my mom did. It's my mom and dad with Claudine.