Part II: Showbiz Shockers of the Year

Dec 27, 2007
How do we describe this year's top five stories? 1) There's a high shock factor 2) The intensity of the drama cannot be ignored 3) The impact of the issue is too big, like straining relationships and ruining marriages.


5. ANGEL LOCSIN FLIES FROM KAPUSO NETWORK

Angel Locsin used to be one of GMA-7's most prized talents. In four straight years, she became a staple in primetime TV viewing with Mulawin (2005), Darna (2005), Majika (2006), and Asian Treasures (2007).

Aside from her television projects, she also hit the big screen with movies like Let the Love Begin (2005), I Will Always Love You (2006), and The Promise (2007). The young actress grew with GMA-7.

So imagine the reaction of the people when she suddenly decided to leave the network that nurtured her. It was an explosion!

The Impact. The Kapuso supporters went livid. They dubbed her, "dark angel," "walang utang na loob," "ingrata," and other sordid names.

Initially, her reason for leaving GMA-7 was "burnout." Some insiders attributed it to dissatisfaction with her talent fee. Others said ABS-CBN tripled the amount of what she was getting from the Kapuso network.

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In her interview with The Buzz last August 12, Angel put things this way, "Hindi na po ako masaya. Importante po sa akin yung tiwala. Napakaimportante sa akin nun... at nawala ‘yon, e. Nung bago ako umalis [papuntang U.S.] habang wala ako, ngayong dumating na ako, nawala ‘yon [tiwala].

"Lahat naman tayo gusto ng growth, di ba? Yung growth ko, nandito [sa ABS-CBN]. Karapatan ko naman siguro na mamili kung ano ‘yung gusto ko, kung ano ‘yung makakabuti sa akin. Basta wala akong nilalabag na batas. Nagtatrabaho lang po ako."

But GMA-7 was hurt. The talent, whom they nurtured and who was offered the biggest projects, left them without properly bidding goodbye. Worst, when GMA-7's top management confronted Angel and her manager Becky Aguila in a formal meeting last July 3 at the Makati Shangri-la, both denied sending feelers to ABS-CBN.

Speaking on behalf of Kapuso network was its Senior Vice-president for Entertainment Wilma Galvante, she revealed, "Nababalitaan namin, marami kaming naririnig na nakikipag-usap na kayo sa kabila. Totoo ba ‘yan? ‘Tapos ang sagot ni Becky, ‘Saan mo narinig ‘yan? Sinong nagsabi sa ‘yo niyan? Hindi ‘yan totoo. Walang katotohanan diyan.'

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"And Angel even said, ‘Naku, hindi po ako lilipat. Mahal na mahal ko po kayo hindi ko kayo iiwan. Gusto ko lang magpahinga. Gusto ko lang magbakasyon. Pagbalik na pagbalik ko, kayo naman ‘yung una kong kakausapin."

But in a presscon held on August 3, Becky admitted sending feelers to ABS-CBN.

"A grateful person would have negotiated with us in good faith and treated us fairly, and with honesty, basic honesty. She and her manager unfortunately did not," was the statement issued by Ms. Wilma.

Angel's transfer also took its toll on the other talents of Becky. After the sine novela Sinasamba Kita (May 2007) with GMA-7, Valerie Concepcion also moved to Channel 2 and is now one of the co-hosts of Willie Revillame's noontime show, Wowowee.

Charee Pineda, who became part of the cast of Impostora (June 2007), was seen in ABS-CBN mini-series Love Spell.

Ella Cruz, the younger Marimarand one of the Super Twins (February 2007), is now part of ABS-CBN. She will soon portray the television remake of Anna Liza. Bakekang's Charming, Eunice Lagunsad, is currently part of the TV series, Princess Sarah and the children's gag show, Goin' Bulilit.

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Jennylyn Mercado, first female winner of GMA-7's StarStruck, is the lone talent of Becky who's still a Kapuso. Shortly after the hullabaloo, Jen's visibility on TV was affected.

"At first I refused to believe... First week ko dito, galing ako ng States, pag-uwi ko mayroon akong schedule for a week. After that, sabi ko, ‘Everyday naka-cancel lahat ng schedules ko. Parang oo, totoo na yata ito.' Tapos nung nagpahinga ako ng one month and a half na walang work, sabi ko, 'Oo nga, naapektuhan talaga,'" was Jennylyn's sentiment.

Fast forward, it seems that both sides, GMA-7 and Angel, have moved on.

Hot Topic Meter. The shocking issue lasted for three months. And now, people are waiting to see how high Angel would soar as a Kapamilya celebrity.

4. KAPUSO vs KAPAMILYA vs AGB NIELSEN

For the past 15 years, AGB Nielsen Media Research Philippines (previously known as Nielsen Media Research) has been providing the Philippine broadcast and advertising industry with TV ratings that serve as advertising clients' source of TV trends and movements. The company has been using a "reliable, independent, and transparent audience measurement system" to provide television audience measurement (TAM) data to the public.

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On November 20, 2007, however, ABS-CBN called the attention of AGB Nielsen regarding unethical practices in Bacolod, Negros Occidental.

The Kapamilya Network was alarmed when a man went to their Bacolod office to narrate how his group was being paid by a certain "network" to scout, then identify, the sample households and bribe the members to deliberately switch channels in favor of the unnamed network. The hired group allegedly offered a P500 bribe or grocery items to the households. Tampering of data would be the end result of this practice.

Hence, ABS-CBN filed a P63-million civil case against AGB Nielsen for damages and injunction, and applied for a temporary restraining order from the court last December 14.

In defense of AGB Nielsen, Ms. Maya Reforma, general research manager of the firm, issued a statement on December 19:

"We initiated an investigation and informed the industry and all stakeholders that certain panel homes had been contacted by representatives of parties being linked to GMA-7. This was done byAGB Nielsen to secure the cooperation of the industry to improve self-regulatory guidelines for promotional campaigns of this nature and to ensure the transparency of the investigation process.

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"AGB Nielsen is confident that its system has been able to thwart any attempts at distorting the data, and is prepared to defend the integrity of its ratings data before the courts."

On that same day, an article was published in PEP, which stated that GMA-7 is "aware" of alleged bribery of panel homes in Bacolod. As proof, the content of a letter from AGB Nielsen general manager Maya Reforma addressed to Ms. Sheila Tan, vice-president for research of GMA Network, Inc., was shown to the public. In the letter dated December 3, AGB informed the Kapuso Network that "certain activities being conducted by your company in Visayas have led to some of our panel homes being contacted by your employees or representatives."

The research group asked GMA-7 to answer six key questions that would help facilitate the ongoing investigation regarding the anomaly in the Visayas region. The existence of this letter showed that GMA-7 had been aware of the anomalous activities for some time.

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On December 20, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 80 issued a temporary restraining order asking AGB Nielsen to refrain from releasing television ratings data to the public for 20 days. However, the firm apparently defied the TRO and released the overnight ratings for December 18 and 19 on December 21.

ABS-CBN then asked the court to indict AGB Nielsen for contempt. The Lopez-owned network named AGB Nielsen, its board of directors, and General Manager Maya Reforma as respondents in the petition.

GMA-7 joined the fray when a reporter from ABS-CBN-owned radio station DZMM tagged the Kapuso Network as the mastermind behind the bribing operation. In the December 19 report of Junrie Hidalgo, he stated: "AGB Nielsen umamin sa dayaan. GMA network tahasang itinurong nasa likod ng dayaan."

GMA-7 executives pointed out that they had been asking AGB Nielsen about the disparity of cable and non-cable ratings of GMA programs for the past four years. GMA's December 19 official statement states: "It is only in the Philippines that the ratings of programs on non-cable or free TV households exhibit a very different behavior from the cable households. Coincidentally, the Philippines is the only country in the world where a competing free-to-air TV station also operates or controls the dominant cable company. The owners of ABS-CBN directly or indirectly operate the country's largest cable company."

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The Kapuso network organized its own emergency presscon on December 20 and announced the plan to file a libel case against "Junrie [Hidalgo], of course, and whoever is connected."

Ms. Rikki Escudero, GMA Head of Regional TV and AVP for Expansion and Production Services, pointed out: "We don't even have a [TV] station in Bacolod. All we have there is a radio station. For several years, we have not been very active in the production areas. Ngayon lang kami muli nagpapapakilala, introducing ourselves."

Ms. Escudero also pointed out that it is very easy for anyone to introduce themselves as GMA-7 employees. They will need strong evidence to determine whether or not the informants from Bacolod are indeed telling the truth.

Last December 26, ABS-CBN formally filed its complaint for contempt against AGB Nielsen. AGB's legal counsel Atty. Rivera had argued that the TRO only covered Bacolod City and not the whole country.

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The Impact. The discovery of irregularities in the ratings data gathering process is snowballing into one of the most talked-about controversies involving Kapamilya and Kapuso fans. The anomaly is also questioning the integrity of an international research company that has been the main source of TV ratings data for the past 15 years. It is hard to predict how this saga will end but one thing is for sure, the conclusion will change the way TV ratings are gathered in the Philippine setting.

Hot Topic Meter. The issue is not hot, it's blazing. Anything that has to do with the network war is big news, as it has always been coupled with fierce statements and comments from the staunch supporters of ABS-CBN and GMA-7.

If you say anything against ABS-CBN, the Kapamilya reacts. If you speak ill of GMA-7, the Kapuso retaliates. The topic is no longer on who's doing things right; the intent of these fans is simply to defend their favored TV station.

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3. GRETCHEN BARRETTO-JOHN ESTRADA KISSCANDAL

On June 8, two pictures circulated on the Internet-one, a guy and a lady were cuddling for the camera; two, they were kissing.

Kissing couples in showbiz are no big deal, but not when the two people happened to be Gretchen Barretto and John Estrada. The pictures were taken using John's Nokia N95 phone, and during the birthday party of Rufa Mae Quinto last May 27.

Both the camps of John and Gretchen kept mum at first. But their silence only fueled speculation. Were they having an affair? How would Tonyboy Cojuangco, the partner of Gretchen for 13 years, react? Who leaked the photos?

John, who normally keeps quiet whenever he has issues, was the first to come out with a statement on June 13. He apologized to Gretchen and her family and he took responsibility for the leakage of the photos.

Four days later, Gretchen said her piece through her manager Boy Abunda: "I have gone in one in a state of humility and surrender and I ask the public please pardon my ways. The only way out of this unchained is through it. I certainly am grieving my mistake."

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The Impact. The "Kisscandal" changed La Greta. The controversy magnet Gretchen lessened her visibility in showbiz and focused on the people that matter to her: her family.

"I really can't tell kung anong level. I just know na parang nauntog talaga ako nang malakas! Marami akong na-realize, marami akong natutunan, marami akong gustong baguhin, and I know I need a lot of growing up to do... " she said in her interview with PEP last July 25.

The scandal dragged some people into the circle of controversy. First, there was Rufa Mae Quinto. She evaded questions about the incident at her house by talking instead about her rocky relationship with singer Erik Santos. They would later break up.

High society raised eyebrows over the kisscandal. Tonyboy's mother, Imelda Ongsiako-Cojuangco reportedly asked her son to leave Gretchen. But Tonyboy vowed he would never leave his family. Gretchen has a long-standing rift with the Cojuangco matriarch.

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On a separate note, the Barretto sisters closed ranks. The three had been feuding. But Claudine and Marjorie gave their support to their sister through text messages and phone calls during the whole ordeal. Gretchen was teary-eyed during The Buzz interview last August 19. She realized that when "one is really in trouble, kahit masama ang loob mo sa tao, sa kapatid mo, it's automatic... it's love, it's blood."

Hot Topic Meter. People just love talking about what she says or does. She's not a full-time celebrity, but she figured in a lot of showbiz controversies this year. She's carefree, candid, and truthful-qualities that endear her to the public.

2. RUFFA AND YILMAZ: SHOCKING SPLIT

Ruffa lived as a wife and mother in Istanbul, away from the limelight. Every time she would visit the country, she was a picture of marital bliss. She would often talk about her lovey dovey and her two adorable daughters Lorin and Venice.

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On the morning of May 8, an announcement roused the Pinoys from sleep: "It is with much regret that RUFFA GUTIERREZ and YILMAZ BEKTAS announce their mutual decision to end their four years of marriage." That was also the start of more shocking revelations, heated exchanges between Ruffa and Yilmaz, and the revival of Ruffa's career.

The Impact. The initial news was just the tip of the iceberg.

Shocker Number 1: Yilmaz blamed Ruffa's showbiz career for their separation. She had extended her stay here when she accepted the hosting gig offered by Solar Entertainment for Philippines' Next Top Model last March.

Shocker Number 2: Ruffa revealed that she was a battered wife. "Lahat ginagawa niya. Sinasaktan niya ako, binubugbog niya ako, pinutol lahat ng buhok ko, sinisipa ako, kinukulong ako sa cabinet, bine-belt niya ako, lahat!"

Shocker Number 3: Yilmaz severed ties with the Gutierrezes, particularly with matriarch Annabelle Rama. In an interview, the feisty mom said, "Leave my daughter alone."

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Shocker Number 4: Ruffa admitted an earlier marriage to a certain Richard Daloia in Las Vegas.

Shocker Number 5: At the height of angry exchanges, Yilmaz called Ruffa "Brutus" (traitor) and Annabelle called columnist Dolly Anne Carvajal "Bruhilda."

The life of the couple became an open book—from the time they announced their breakup to Ruffa's revelation about having been battered, to Yilmaz's s sudden arrival to visit his daughters last August.

Looking at the bright side, Ruffa didn't have to work hard for her showbiz comeback. The open controversy led to a contract with ABS-CBN and movie projects under Regal Films, one of which will be shown on January 1, the Desperadas. Ruffa is presently the TV host of The Buzz.

Hot Topic Meter. We were all taken aback by the split announcement, and got even more shocked by the statements that ensued from both camps. Things seem back to normal for now, but expect a commotion once Yilmaz and Ruffa come face to face again.

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1. KRIS-JAMES-HOPE SAGA

Arguably, the biggest story this year was the alleged sexual affair of basketball superstar James Yap with Belo Medical Clinic receptionist Hope Centeno.

Although Hope is not a celebrity, the mere fact that she got involved with James was a big deal. James is the husband of Kris Aquino, one of the most popular celebrities in Philippine showbiz, and whose personality has always been as colorful as her lovelife. Once again, the daughter of former president Cory Aquino was caught in a scandal that became a national issue.

The Impact. The controversy, which happened shortly after Kris's birthday, caused her great emotional turmoil and nearly ended the marriage.

Shocker Number 1. What made the rumored affair complicated was that Kris was pregnant with her and James's first child. In an interview, Kris Aquino said, "Patas ang laban sana. Kaya kong lumaban, kaya kong humarap, kung wala akong dinadala, but I am pregnant."

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Shocker Number 2: The scandal strained the friendship of Kris with Dr. Vicki Belo, who owns the beauty clinic where the supposed illicit affair took place. Hope Centeno vividly described the details of her sexual affair with James.

Shocker Number 3: The issue compelled the TV host to lie low in showbiz. Kris gave up her hosting jobs in The Buzz and Game KNB?

Since then, the people have moved on with their lives. James and Kris chose to work on their marriage. Kris has become less visible in showbiz, making family life her priority. She remains highly visible as a commercial endorser though.

Kris withdrew as one of Belo's top endorsers, and is now the face of Facial Care Center, one of Belo's competitors. But it's business as usual for the Belo Medical group. On Vicki Belo's broken friendship with Kris, Vicki said: "We need time to heal."

Hot Topic Meter. Kris Aquinois Kris Aquino. Whatever she says candidly or does (recklessly in the past), whatever controversy comes her way, matters a lot to the public.

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Other issues that almost made it to our Top 10 List—the sudden split of Aiko Melendez and Martin Jickain, Marjorie Barretto and Dennis Padilla. The two couples already filed for annulment.

There's Yuri Park and her revelation that she is the mom of Mark Lapid's baby. The two are also in the process of divorce.

Let's also note the election results last May—many celebrity candidates did not fare well. Voters apparently favored experience over popularity this time.

Indeed, showbiz is full of surprises. We never know what's next, like a talenovela or movie that keeps rolling, and we sit with bated breath on the edge of our seats.

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How do we describe this year's top five stories? 1) There's a high shock factor 2) The intensity of the drama cannot be ignored 3) The impact of the issue is too big, like straining relationships and ruining marriages.
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