THE LEGAL CASE. Since Nomar passed away, Lorayne says, she has been having dreams about her late husband. In one dream, her husband told her and their kids that he is going somewhere where they cannot join him.
"Mayroong isang panaginip na magkakasama kaming apat," she recalls. "'Tapos, sinabi niya, 'Diyan lang kayo. Hindi kayo puwedeng sumama.'
Kasama niya si Richard noong time na 'yon. 'Tapos, nawala [sila]."
With these disturbing dreams, she asks her husband in prayer: "Babe, hanggang ngayon hindi ko pa talaga alam kung ano'ng nangyari sa 'yo... Tulungan mo naman ako. Tulungan mo naman ako na mahanap ko 'yong mga sagot do'n."
The answer, for Lorayne, came in the form of a folded piece of paper in her late husband's wallet.
Nomar always kept his wallet in a small pouch inside his big Nike sports bag, which he usually brought to work. Since her husband's death, Lorayne could not bring herself to open that bag, which brought too many memories to life. But after the dreams started, she decided to go through Nomar's things.
"May nag-uusog na 'Tingnan mo, tingnan mo 'yong bag, halungkatin mo.'"
That was when she discovered the folded piece of paper. "Do'n sa gilid ng wallet, do'n po nakalagay. Nakaipit lang siya. Kung hindi mo pa titingnang maigi, hindi mo mapapansin."
It was a receipt from the Land Transporation Office (LTO), dated February 5, 2009—the receipt for the penalty imposed on Richard Gutierrez for reckless driving.
Lorayne says: "Sabi ko, 'Bakit ito nandito?' So 'yong mga questions ko na 'tinatanong sa isip ko, parang nabibigyan ng kasagutan, na siya na mismo [Nomar] ang gumagawa ng paraan."
The discovery of Richard's ticket for reckless driving was what pushed Lorayne to take action. She sought the help of her father-in-law in getting legal representation. Ramon Pardo's cousin-in-law, Atty. Firdausi Abbas, and the latter's partner, Atty. Ombra Jainal, agreed to take the case for free—on one condition: that Lorayne would pursue the case until the end.
Atty. Abbas discloses: "Mrs. Pardo signed an agreement with us that the moment she withdraws the criminal complaint, she will be liable to us, to the law firm, for a certain amount, because we would never agree to be collection agents... As far as the law firm is concerned, we're not going to settle. If she will settle, she will be paying the law firm a penalty of a certain amount that we imposed upon her. And I don't think she will [settle], because that is not a small amount imposed."
He also adds that since a criminal case was filed, it would be very hard to back out of it. "In this case, there will be two aspects, as in any criminal case—the criminal and the civil aspect," Atty. Abbas explains. "A civil aspect can be settled. It can be compromised. But the criminal aspect is in the name of the people of the Philippines."
On July 23, Lorayne filed—with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Imus, Cavite—an affidavit-complaint "for the purpose of filing a criminal complaint against Richard Gutierrez y Rama for Reckless Imprudence Resulting to Homicide, as duly provided under the Revised Penal Code, Article 249."
The affidavit-complaint stated that:
• Richard was "driving fast" and "obviously ignored" the road sign that read "REDUCE SPEED CAMP ZONE 40KPH," which was posted "four to five hundred meters away from the crash site." He also ignored "the bad road condition as well as the inclement weather," which caused the car to "skid throwing the car from the road and bump with tremendous impact a concrete Meralco post at the other side of the road from where the car was traveling cutting the same into two and then hit three coconut trees."
• Photos and TV footage of the wrecked car "vividly show the terrible impact and severe damage to the car, which in no uncertain terms indicate that the said Nissan car... was driven fast as pointed out in the Spot Report and Police Report of the PNP at Silang, Cavite."
• Richard "appears to tend to drive fast and at high speed," as shown by his "violation ticket for Reckless Driving in Quezon City."
When asked why it took her two months after Nomar's death to file the case, Lorayne reasons: "Kasi ayokong magsampa ng kaso na tuliro ang utak mo... Kung siya [Richard], nasa state of shock no'ng nangyari 'yon, kami din—lalo na kami! Siya, madali siyang makapag-move-on, kasi puwede niyang palitan si Nomar, e. Maraming P.A. na mag-aapply sa kanya. Kami ba, puwede naming palitan? Puwede naming ibalik 'yong buhay ng asawa ko? Hindi na, di ba? Wala na, e."
Lorayne adds that she can't bear the thought that her kids might one day blame her for not taking legal action.
"Kapakanan na ng mga anak ko ang kailangan kong isipin dito. Pag lumaki ang mga anak ko, baka sabihin nila, 'Bakit mo pa tinanggap 'yong educational plan, 'tapos ipapamukha din sa amin na kung hindi dahil sa kanila, hindi kami makakatapos ng pag-aaral? E, di, sana mas maganda kung 'dinemanda mo na lang. At least, nabigyan pa natin ng hustisya si Papa.' At least, magiging proud sila na hindi sila grumadweyt ng pag-aaral dahil do'n sa taong 'yon."
Richard, according to the GMA-7 showbiz talk show Startalk (August 15), was supposed to appear before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Imus, Cavite, on August 14 to file his counter-affidavit, but the actor's legal representative, Atty. Sheryll Mallari, a junior partner in the Belo Gozon Elma Parel Asuncion & Lucila Law Offices, claimed that they had yet to receive the subpoena and had only received the "amended complaint affidavit" that same day. Atty. Mallari requested an extension for the submission of the counter-affidavit, to have "ample time to file our response."
Startalk also reported that Richard was at that time on the set of Patient X, his horror flick, which was on its first shooting day.
In an interview with Startalk, Lorayne's lead counsel commented: "Maybe, she [Richard's lawyer] herself did not receive anything. But per information from the prosecutor herself, somebody who represented himself as a legal representative of Richard Gutierrez got a copy of affidavit."
On August 28, the actor's camp filed its counter-affidavit. (To give readers a detailed view of the star's defense, excerpts are printed on page 130, under the heading "Counter-Affidavit of Richard Gutierrez.")
WAR OF THE WORDS. After the announcement of the filing of the case, showbiz reporter Jojo Gabinete had a short interview with Richard at the thanksgiving party for Zorro on July 25.
In the interview, conducted by Jojo Gabinete for YES! Magazine and its online affiliate PEP, Richard expressed his disappointment over the turn of events. He refuted some statements made by the Pardos, especially the issue that he did not apologize to the family.
"Nasasaktan ako sa ginawang statement ng tatay ni Nomar. Maayos na maayos po 'yong pag-uusap namin. Ang pagtingin ko sa kanya, ang respeto ko sa kanya, napakataas, dahil paulit-ulit niya akong sinasabihan na 'Huwag mong sisihin ang sarili mo, aksidente 'yong nangyari. Pare-pareho tayong nawalan.'
"Ganoon po 'yong mga sinasabi sa akin ng tatay ni Nomar. Nakapagtataka, hindi ko alam kung saan nila napulot na hindi man lang ako nag-sorry? Bakit ako pupunta sa wake kung hindi ako magso-sorry? Kung hindi ako makikiramay? Nandoon po ako para makiramay at alam po niya 'yon, kaya ngayon, nagtataka ako kung saan po niya napulot na hindi ako nag-sorry, kasi, noong panahon na nag-usap kami, mata sa mata."
Richard reiterated: "Kahit ngayon po, kaya kong humarap sa kanya, mata sa mata. Lalake sa lalake. Alam ko po na nakiramay ako sa kanila nang maayos at nag-sorry ako."
He further clarified that he is open to talking to Lorayne, but he felt that the wake was not the proper time or place for it to happen.
"Noong panahon na nandoon ako sa wake, tinabihan ako ni Lorayne at noong sinabi ko na condolence sa kanya, wala siyang balik sa akin. Wala siyang sinabi man lang.
"Na-shock ako dahil 'yong reaction niya sa akin, parang may galit siya, ganoon. So, sa dami-dami ng iniisip ko, sa dami-dami ng nararamdaman ko, sinabi niya sa akin na gusto raw niya akong makausap sa likod na kuwarto.
"Para sa akin po, hindi po 'yon ang tamang panahon, hindi 'yon ang tamang oras at tamang lugar para magkausap kaming dalawa, kaya sinabi ko po sa kanya, 'Lorayne, pagbigyan mo ako ngayon, pero next time, mag-usap tayo. Huwag ngayon, marami pa akong pinagdadaanan at hindi ito ang tamang lugar.'
"Pagkatapos po ng usapan na 'yon, hindi ko na po siya nakausap. Hindi naman siya nag-text o tumawag. Alam po ng dad ni Nomar kung saan ako makokontak. Hindi po nila ako kinontak."
Richard also disclosed that even before the accident, he had already been helping Nomar send his son King to school. Since the actor has been openly helping the World Vision organization, a group that helps finance the education of poor children, he was asked by Nomar if he could also help out with King's tuition.
"Ngayong taon na ito, ako po 'yong nagpapaaral sa anak ni Nomar. Ang hiningi lang sa akin ni Nomar bago siya pumanaw ay maka-graduate 'yong mga anak niya ng college. Iyon lang daw 'yong gusto niyang mangyari sa mga anak niya."
Richard explained that since it was Nomar's dream for his kids to finish school, he thought of setting up an educational plan for the kids after the accident.
"Iyon ang tulong na gusto kong ibigay from the very start. 'Yon ang nasa puso ko, 'yon ang alam ko na tama na gawin."
He also clarified that the Gutierrezes' offer to Lorayne was to give the kids an educational plan and money to help them get by—contrary to Lorayne's claim that she was asked to choose between the two.
"Aside from the educational plan, sinabi rin namin na ibibigay namin ang suweldo ni Nomar monthly, hanggang three years. Three years of monthly na suweldo ni Nomar, ibibigay rin namin. Tulong sa mga bata.
"Tinanggihan nila lahat 'yon. Tinanggihan po nila lahat ng gusto kong tulong na ibigay sa kanila. Dahil ang gusto po nila ay four million pesos na cash na napakabigat at hindi ko alam kung saan nila nakuha 'yong four million cash.
"Para sa akin, kung ano 'yong nasa puso ko, 'yon ang gusto kong ibigay sa kanila, dahil tumutulong ako sa pamilya nila bago pa pumanaw si Nomar, at alam ni Lorayne 'yon."
In his interview with Salve Asis in Pilipino Star Ngayon published on July 26, 2009, Richard is quoted as saying: "Sinasabi niya ngayon na wala syang pambili ng gatas ng anak nila kaya sabi namin, sige tutulungan namin pero obviously nagbago ang isip nila. They wanted more money now. Gusto nila ng pangkabuhayan showcase eh hindi naman ako game show."
In the YES! interview, Lorayne answers Richard's statements and clarifies that she did not know that Richard was the one who supposedly financed King's tuition for this schoolyear.
"Siguro kung may usapan man sila ni Nomar, it's between Richard and Nomar. Kasi si Nomar, noong nabubuhay pa, ang sabi niya, 'Babe, gusto kong mapag-aral ang mga bata. Gusto kong mapag-aral sila sa magandang school. Kahit sabihin mo na magkandakuba ako sa pagtatrabaho, maipasok ko lang sila sa magandang school. Basta, kumbaga, mas dagdag higpit-sinturon.' Sabi niya, 'Ita-try kong mangutang sa opisina.'"
She says that when Nomar finally came up with the money for tuition, she assumed that he had borrowed money from Royal ERA. Since Annabelle also mentioned in their June 3 meeting that Nomar owed money from the office, Lorayne says she concluded that Nomar was able to get money from there.
"Mayroon pong 'binigay sa akin si Nomar na pambayad sa school, pero hindi niya sinabi sa akin kung galing kay Richard or galing sa office. Basta sinabi po sa akin ni Nomar, even sa mommy ko, 'Ma, gusto kong mapag-aral si King sa isang Catholic school. Gagawa ako ng paraan, mangungutang ako sa opisina.'"
Lorayne also explains that she did indeed try to contact Richard through George, Richard's bodyguard. She explains that this is what Richard meant when he said that Nomar's father knew how to contact the actor. When she contacted George, she was told by George that he would tell Richard that she wanted to talk to him. She never got any reply from the actor.
"Hindi na siya sumagot," says Lorayne.
Nomar's father, Ramon, notes that Richard did indeed express condolences to him, but maintains that the actor did not apologize for the accident or Nomar's death.
Amidst the controversy, Richard appears to be composed, but his mother cum talent manager, Annabelle Rama, gave a piece of her mind on the issue in interviews with the DWIZ radio program Wow! Ang Showbiz last July 28 and 30 (taped and transcribed by PEP and posted on the same dates).
"Bakit no'ng mamatay si Nomar, ayaw niyang magsalita sa TV?" said the Gutierrez matriarch about Lorayne. "Ayaw niyang magsalita. Kasi, hindi raw siya artista. Ba't ngayon iiyak-iyak pa siya sa TV? Sisira-siraan niya pa'ng anak ko!"
The Gutierrez matriarch insisted she had been helping the family since the tragedy happened. If it had not been for her efforts, she announced, GMA-7 wouldn't have sponsored Nomar's wake and burial.
According to Annabelle, she had received a text message from Emmy Gozon, wife of GMA-7 president Felipe Gozon. Emmy Gozon had asked: "Annabelle, ano'ng kailangan ni Richard? Tutulong kami. Ano'ng kailangan niyang tulong na gustong maitulong namin sa kanya?"
Annabelle said she replied: "Pakisabi, Emmy, ang tulong na hihingin ko sa kanya, 'wag na kay Richard, do'n na lang sa namatay. Sana mailibing 'yong patay, magastusan man lang kung ano ang kailangan ng mga tao do'n, kung kailangan ng kotse..."
Thus, the help extended by GMA-7 was a result of her intercession. "Kaya tumulong sa kanya ang GMA, dahil din sa amin din 'yan... Kung hindi rin lang sa akin, hindi naman siya tulungan ng GMA. Sino ba si Nomar? P.A. lang naman siya ni Richard. Ba't siya tutulungan? Hindi naman siya artista. Kaya nga nakiusap ako na tulungan siya."
Responding to Lorayne's claim that she never got a single centavo from the Gutierrezes, Annabelle explained that during Nomar's wake, she and her family extended themselves to help the Pardo family by collecting abuloy or donations for Nomar, feeding the mourners with the food they brought, and assigning their employees to serve the guests.
"Ako, napaka-generous ko. Matulungin akong tao. Lalo na si Richard—kasama niya si Nomar seven days a week. Sabi ko, hindi pabayaan ni Richard 'yan... Habang nakaburol si Nomar, sarado ang opisina namin. Lahat ng mga tao ko, pati driver ko, nandoon sa wake, tumutulong doon kung ano mga kailangang gawin. Nagpapa-cater ako gabi-gabi. 'Yong catering ko naman, pinapasarap ko na, dahil gabi-gabi nandoon ang aking pamilya. Nandoon ako, nandoon si Eddie, nakiramay kami sa kanila."
She also critiqued Lorayne's attitude during the wake: "Alam mo 'yan, sa burol, hindi man lang siya nagse-serve. Nakaupo lang siya! Alam mo ang nagse-serve do'n? Akala ng mga kamag-anak niya, mga waitress ang dala-dala ko! Mga P.A. lahat 'yon, kasamahan ni Nomar sa trabaho."
The talent manager backed her son's statement that the Pardo family wanted to get four million out of Richard.
"May nag-inform sa akin, e, na nung last day nung burol dumating daw 'yong lawyer ni Lorayne tsaka 'yong tatay ni Nomar, nag-meeting daw sa isang kuwarto, narinig nung aking spy na sisingilin si Richard ng four million.
"Ano 'yan? Hindi kami bumibili ng patay! Parang ibinebenta sa akin 'yong patay. Hindi ko binibili si Nomar! Kanyang-kanya na si Nomar! Itago niya ang abo ni Nomar, hindi ko kailangan 'yon!"
Annabelle also told DWIZ that she and her family would not back down from this fight.
"Inumpisahan niya, tatapusin ko na! Wala kaming inabuso. Wala kaming inapakan na tao. Kung hindi lang naman sinabi sa akin ni Richard, 'Asikasuhin mo si Nomar,' hindi ko siya talaga aasikasuhin.
"Utos lahat ni Richard 'yan. Utos lahat ng anak ko 'yan. Kung walanghiya si Richard, wala na siyang pakialam do'n. Kaya kami naglalamay sa burol, utos lahat ng anak ko 'yon. Kaya dapat siya [Lorayne], 'wag na 'wag niyang awayin si Richard! 'Yon ang may pera, 'wag niyang awayin 'yon!
Inaway-away niya, 'yon ang makakatulong sa kanya. Mali siya do'n, e."
The enraged Annabelle went on in the same radio program:
"Kung dumating si Richard do'n sa burol at umiyak ka kay Richard, 'Chard, walang mangyayari sa pamilya ko, ano'ng nangyari sa amin?' bibigyan ka agad ni Richard ng tseke! Dahil bago kami pumunta ng burol, sabi ni Richard sa bodyguard niya, 'Kunin mo ang checkbook ko, George.' Nagpaalam sa akin si Richard, 'Magbigay ako, Mommy.' 'Magbigay ka,' sabi ko sa kanya."
She issued a g: "Lorayne, pagsisihan mong lahat itong ginagawa mo! Tandaan mo, ang inaaway mo si Richard, napaka-generous, napakabait na anak. Kung ikaw sa burol, hindi ka na sana nagtataray-taray sa kanya, iisyuhan ka agad ni Richard ng tseke pantulong. Kasi nga ang anak ko, nagpapaaral ng mga batang hindi niya kilala ang mga nanay, ikaw pa kayang ang tatay ng anak mo, nagtatrabaho kay Richard?"
In her interview with YES!, Lorayne maintains that what she is after is justice and nothing else.
"Hindi ko naman kalaban si Annabelle, e. Si Richard lang. Siguro, pagka masyado na rin siyang maraming sinasabi sa 'kin at below the belt na 'yon-I don't know. Ayokong pangunahan 'yong mga pangyayari. Pero this is Richard and me.
"Ang akin lang, justice for Nomar, sa nangyari. Kahit sabihin mong aksidente 'yon-accident, oo, pero it could have been prevented, di ba? Ikaw, driver ka, dapat alam mo kung ano ang dapat mong gawin."
Lorayne also clarifies that no one influenced her to file the case, especially not Wilma Galvante, the GMA-7 executive with whom Annabelle has a long-running tiff and an ongoing case. Annabelle has made statements to the effect that an unnamed someone is responsible for putting together and financing Lorayne's July 24 press conference at the office of the Abbas Law Firm in Greenhills, San Juan.
The widow answers: "Hindi ko po alam na may bayad pala ang presscon? Iyong mga nagpunta po dito, wala naman po kaming 'binigay na bayad."
Attorney Abbas seconds: "We just bought hamburger and Coke—and that's it."
Lorayne further questions Annabelle's statement that it was Richard who instructed his talent manager-mother to take care of Nomar's wake. "Di ba ang sabi po niya [Annabelle] sa akin noong una na hindi alam ni Richard na patay na si Nomar? Paano po niya naiutos 'yon?"
When Lorayne finally loses her cool, she tells YES!: "Paano po kung si Nomar ang nagmamaneho at si Richard ang namatay? Saan na kaya pupulutin iyong asawa ko?"
She poses the same question in her DWIZ interview on Wow! Ang Showbiz on July 29, following an angry Annabelle's two interviews with the same program. Lorayne asks pointblank: "Sa palagay n'yo ba, sasabihin nilang aksidente ang pangyayari kung si Richard ang nawala? For sure, nasa kulungan na rin ang asawa ko. For sure, hindi na nila tinanong kung ano ang nangyari. Right there and then ay ipadadampot nila si Nomar."
Annabelle—who is never without an answer for people challenging her—has never responded to this one.
Where Lorayne is concerned, however, there are bigger challenges to face. The mother of two says she is keeping strong for her children—King, 5, and Kiel, 3. But she admits that there are times when the pain is more palpable.
"Si Kiel, 'yong bunso, every night talaga, 'Ma, where is Papa?' 'In his house.' 'Where's his house?' 'In his new house.' Iyong new house na tinutukoy namin ngayon, Manila Memorial house... Pag minsan nasa bahay ako, sasabihin no'n, 'Where is Papa?'"
She demonstrates how she pretends that her husband is sitting beside them. "He's here, o, beside me," she tells Kiel.
"Pupunta si Kiel do'n sa sofa, sasabihin niya, 'Papa!' Pero wala, empty."