The Blind Item: "Trouble In Paradise"
"There is a fly in the ointment in what is generally perceived to be wedded bliss of a very popular showbiz couple. The husband found out that her [sic] angelic wife, a scion of an old haciendero family, suffers from kleptomania.
"It was only recently that he was shocked to learn, after being told by an executive of a ritzy Makati department store, that his wife was caught shoplifting.
"The guy immediately proceeded to the store, paid double the amount involved (which were for small items really) and asked the management to clamp down on the incident.
"But the incident was repeated several times. The embarrassed husband hired a security guard to look after the wife. The guard was instructed to watch discreetly but closely if the wife shoplifts and pay for the item without creating a fuss.
"The husband has confronted the wife about this malady and the wife had agreed to undergo psychotherapy in St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City. The latest word is the wife is now seeing a shrink regularly.”
This “blind item” came from the “Scandal Sheet” section in the political pages of the daily broadsheet The Manila Standard (February 2004). It was later picked up by rumormongers and, through cell phone text messaging, spread rapidly.
But more alarming was the way the blind item was texted. It no longer hid its subject. In the text messages, the angelic wife, the scion of an old haciendero family was identified.
Her name: Lucy Torres-Gomez.
ABS-CBN PICKS UP. The “Lucy Torres-Gomez shoplifting incident” grew even louder when shows and people from the TV network ABS-CBN picked up the rumor.
The now-defunct showbiz-oriented ABS-CBN show Ek! Channel began running a story about the rumor in January 2005, complete with reenactment.
ABS-CBN newscasters Ces Drillon and Karen Davila also touched on the rumor.
Ces did her own investigating and began asking around, while Karen was supposed to be keeping the “surveillance tape” of the whole “shoplifting and arresting” scene that happened in the “ritzy Makati department store” mentioned in the blind item.
This establishment was also identified as Rustan’s Department Store.
The Buzz was also getting ready to launch its own take on the rumor, as it grew even louder in cyberspace through web forum discussions and emails, complete with the “conversation” between Lucy and the guards who “caught” her “shoplifting.”
And in the emails and forums, the rumor began to sound believable since the pinpointed sources of the story were “people from ABS-CBN.”
For almost a year, nothing was heard from the subject of the shoplifting rumor. Lucy kept quiet in the hope that the rumor would die a natural death.
But it didn’t. So, Lucy finally spoke up.
FACING FACTS. It was in April of 2004 when Lucy—then a quiet, simple, non-showbiz housewife to a very popular actor—first heard of the rumor from her friend Kris Aquino.
Kris told her that a nasty rumor had been going around saying Lucy was a kleptomaniac. Kris suggested that Lucy confront the source of the rumor, The Manila Standard, and study her legal options.
Lucy at first decided to just ignore the rumor.
“I would not assume that by coming out [with a denial], everybody who believed the rumor will really say na, hindi pala totoo. There will always be those who would believe otherwise. I decided I would not dignify the rumor with an answer,” said Lucy in the interview she gave for the March 2005 issue of YES! magazine, titled “Lucy Torres The Celebrity As Victim.”
More prodding by friends, and even by husband Richard later on, failed to push Lucy into action. She just kept the anger to herself.
Until January 2005, when she finally watched Ek! Channel take on her alleged shoplifting bust.
Lucy said the show consistently played the story, and even claimed there was a surveillance tape.
She finally decided to do something about the malicious rumor.
FINDING OUT WHO STARTED IT. Husband Richard did his own investigation and went after the people he thought were spreading the rumor. First to be confronted were newscasters Ces Drillon and Karen Davila.
Richard’s friend, San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito named Ces as the one who told him about Lucy being a “kleptomaniac.”
When Richard and Lucy asked Ces about what Mayor JV told them, she admitted talking to the mayor about the rumor, but said she was just checking if the rumor about Lucy was true.
She sent text messages to Lucy saying all they heard about her was not true.
Lucy did not reply.
The wife of Richard said she did not want to dwell on Ces too much, and absolved her because she was not the source of the rumor.
The only fault of Ces Drillon, Lucy said, was that she picked up the rumor and told somebody about it.
Richard asked Karen Davila to reveal the “surveillance tape” showing Lucy’s “shoplifting and arrest” by the store guards. Karen said she had no such tape, and claimed she was also a victim of rumormongers.
The Buzz, on the other hand, never got to do its own story about the rumor. Lucy’s friend Kris Aquino—also one of the hosts of the show—made sure any such attempt would not push through.
She even dared the show’s staff to show her the “surveillance tape” that shows “Lucy’s shoplifting incident.”
She told them, “If you can produce the tape, kahit ako pa ang mag-voice over.” The staff produced no such tape.
Ultimately, Richard went to the source of the rumor, The Manila Standard, and asked its editor-in-chief, Julie Yap Daza, to tell him who wrote the blind item that spawned the malicious rumor against his wife Lucy.
“She answered me, but I did not believe her. Sabi niya, she doesn’t know who wrote it. I think it was really irresponsible of Julie to say that talaga,” said Richard in Lucy’s March 2005 YES! interview.
POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. On the same YES! issue, Lucy and Richard’s manager Douglas Quijano told what he thought was the real motive of the blind item.
“They want to destroy Lucy now, this early, because she is Richard’s best campaigner.”
At the time of the rumor, Richard was planning to run for senator in the coming elections then.
“They want to weaken Richard by weakening his best asset. This is politically motivated,” continued Douglas. He noted that the blind item did not even come out in the showbiz section of the newspaper. “Nasa political page siya ng Manila Standard.”
Lucy agreed, “The rumor circulated mainly in the upper crust of society.” The same crust, the magazine said, that wheels and deals and takes pleasure in deciding who sits in the Palace.
Failing to find the culprit, Lucy issued a challenge to anyone to come out with the “surveillance tape” that would incriminate her, or to show her the person who could prove the rumors were in fact true.
She challenged the tabloids and the Ek! Channel to present proof that she really was a kleptomaniac.
No one has stepped up to Lucy’s challenge, up to this day.
AFFIRMING LUCY’S GOOD NAME. Rustan’s Department Store, responding to a query made by the GMA-7’s S-Files, issued this official statement made by its own president Bienvenido Tantoco Jr.
“It has come to our attention that there are rumors circulating that Mrs. Lucy Torres-Gomez was caught shoplifting in Rustan’s.
"We would like the public to know that there is no truth to this and that Mrs. Lucy Torres-Gomez is a customer of good standing and is welcome in any of our establishments at anytime.”
Saddened by how easy it is for anyone to make up a story and mask it as truth, Lucy accepted the fact that, being married to Richard Gomez, something like this was bound to happen.
She said, “I guess nothing just really prepares you for it when it really happens already. At the back of my mind it has always been there.”
She just has to prepare herself for more of something like this in the future, Lucy said. But she resolved that next time, she will not be passive anymore.
She will meet the insults squarely.
SOURCE: February 2005 issue, YES! magazine