"Hindi ako natatakot," said Rowena "Mel" Pulmano, who became a staffer of Becky Aguila for roughly seven years and who spent five years being the handler of Jennylyn Mercado.
Those continuous years came to an abrupt halt recently when Mel was accused by both Becky and Jen of forging Jen's signature and stealing money from the StarStruck Ultimate Female Survivor.
STORY FROM BECKY'S CAMP. Two weeks ago, the tabloids published reports hinting of Jen's falling out with her handler. The alleged cause: Mel stashed away the money of the young actress.
According to Edgar Cruz's report in Yehey, last October 7, 2008, Jen discovered that somebody had "forged her signature on cleared checks." Upon checking with the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), she discovered that "a total of ten checkbooks and three checks—amounting to P60,000, P20,000 and P20,000—were issued to Mel from February to July 2008."
Jen said she never issued those checks to her handler.
And her worst discovery, according to Jen: she only had P2,094.42 left in her account.
Aside from the alleged forgery and unauthorized issuance of checks, Mel also supposedly borrowed money from Wowowee co-host Valerie Concepcion, who is also a ward of Becky.
According to Valerie's mom Marietta Galang, Mel approached her sometime in the last week of August to ask for a loan of P100,000 on Jennylyn's behalf. When Valerie was told about this, Valerie said that Jen should give her a call.
However, Mel allegedly insisted that Jen was embarrassed about asking for a loan, so she, as handler, was there to represent the Kapuso actress. Following this, Mrs. Marietta Galang said she gave Mel P30,000. In exchange, Mel allegedly issued a UCPB check to Valerie's mom with Jen's "forged signature."
MEL'S ACCOUNT. Mel denied all the allegations and aired her side of the story in Startalk last October 25. (Click here for the story.)
In a phone interview with PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) yesterday morning, October 30, Mel said rather calmly: "Hindi ako authorized na mag-withdraw. Alam ni Jennylyn na manager niya ang humahawak ng kanyang pera. Minsan, inuutusan ako bilang representative ni Becky."
Mel also told PEP that her role is simply to relay Jen's monthly expenses to Becky—this includes "bayad sa bahay, sa kotse, Meralco, at kung anu-ano pa."
With regard to the "utang" claims, Mel clarified that the loans were for "Becky." Mel added, "Hindi lang sina Valerie at Joross [Gamboa, also a talent of Becky] yun. Bale limang tao, para sa expenses ni Becky."
Becky's "expenses," Mel said, means "para sa casino."
ISSUE ELEVATED TO COURT. Last Tuestday, October 28, Jennylyn filed 19 cases of qualified theft through falsification of commercial documents and nine counts of falsification of documents against Mel.
Becky, who says she wants to wait till All Saints Day is over, will also file separate cases of her own against the former aide.
Mel stood her ground and told PEP that she is not scared. "Malalaman naman ang katotohanan," was her firm statement. She said she holds documents that would prove her innocence in court.
Mel said that because of all this, she pitied Jennylyn. "Mahal ko si Jen. Alam ni Mommy Lydia [Jen's adoptive mother] ang totoo. Nung nakita nga niya [Jen] ako, naawa siya, [sabi], 'Tita, dalhin ko siya sa hospital.' Pero ang sinabi raw ni Becky, 'Ipakulong mo na siya."
The former Becky staffer was referring to the time she got hospitalized. Mel said that Becky and Jen were looking to confront her about the "checks" they believed she "stole." Mel said that Becky's camp told people that Mel had gone into hiding, but, according to Mel, she just slept like a log because she had taken Valium, the cure allegedly suggested by Becky herself for Mel's insomnia.
"Hindi ko lang maidilat ang mata ko, pero 'pag tatanungin ako, sumasagot ako. Hindi nila ako kinontak."
When asked why would Jennylyn take side with her manager, Mel replied, in a sad tone, "Baka sinabi ni Becky sa kanya, 'Ako magtutustos sa iyo, dadalhin kita sa Amerika...' Ako, hindi ko kaya [ibigay] yun."
MESSAGE TO JENNYLYN AND BECKY. Analyzing the entire hubbub, Mel surmised: "Na-frame up ako; si Jen, nagamit."
She has both sympathy and concern for Jen. But for Becky? She quickly replied, "Marami pang dapat pag-usapan."
For Jen, she issues a message: "Yung sinasabi mo na wala ka nang tiwala, sana yung sinasamahan mo ngayon, hindi ka nagkamali."
For Becky, Mel has these words of advice, "Magpakatotoo ka. Huwag mo gamitin ang tao at artista mo."