“Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned.” That adage can also be said of the writers particularly the tabloid showbiz columnists. Hard-hitting, nitpicking, fearless, trigger-happy with their criticisms that sometimes poke down below the belt, are some adjectives aptly describing some of the so-called entertainment writers in print media.
Indeed, the pen is still mightier than the sword, so to speak. And such sword had slain countless of victims in the form of issues or personalities in the showbiz industry. Freedom of expression thrives in a democracy such as ours but, sad to think, some writers have overstepped on the boundaries of decency and propriety. In straight parlance, these wolves in sheep’s clothing are already using their columns and articles for their personal vendetta, caprice and idiosyncrasy.
Take the case of a very popular showbiz politician who suffered a humiliating defeat in 2001 when he ran against and lost to a not-so charismastic governor of their province. There were many factors that contributed to the loss such as his being branded as a traitor to his original benefactor, his lousy accomplishments and there were some minor administrative charges that were not substantiated. But a tabloid writer slowly started the carnage by picking on the politician’s wife thru the tabloid column. By reading between the lines, one could surmise that the writer had an axe to grind, not only against the politician but against his entire family. Plain hatred could be felt in the write-ups and some even appeared malicious and too personal. The writer’s barrage ceased only after the smoke of election had subsided. Perhaps the couple, who had both lost in that memorable election, appeared like worms writhing in pain to the eyes of the vengeful tabloid writer. That was a big lesson learned for one turning his back on a lowly tabloid columnist.
John Lapus, who ably anchored the Luna Awards of 2006, is presently the crow target of Jobert Sucaldito’s ammo via his 45-caliber column in a minor tabloid. According to John, in an interview, the diatribes against his person started when he left ABS-CBN. Jobert, the writer, wrote that the animosity between them was sparked by John’s guesting in the controversial radio program of DJ Mo Twister where John played on some celebrities close to Jobert. Further, Jobert’s ire was in defense of Cristy Fermin who was degraded by DJ Mo.
At first, Jobert had trained his guns on the glib-tounged DJ at the length of calling him Mo Twisted. Slowly but surely, the tip of the Jobert’s guns shifted to the direction of John. “May alipunga yan at siya nga ang may bad breath,” said Jobert in one of his columns referring to John’s revelation in the radio interview that Chokoleit, a stand-up entertainer and fast becoming known as a good comedian, has halitosis. The attacks were plain and simple “personalan na” with issues ranging from their common friends up to their families. Early this year, there was a pushing incident involving John’s mother and elder sister versus the group of Jobert and Cristy Fermin. Expectedly, the rift had widened and Jobert’s columns got nearer the boiling point. “Humarap ka nga sa amin, John Lapus, at magsuntukan tayo. Duwag!”
Putting up his own defense, John guested in the showbiz talk show of his home studio. But explaining his side only fanned the fire of Jobert’s angst, “Diyos ko, gusto mo magdalahan tayo ng mga kamag-anak na criminal at mag-ubusan tayo ng lahi eh.” The challenge was hurled by Jobert out of his frustration maybe because John made it appear that Jobert and his group were stymied by the bravado of John’s elder sister in the pushing incident that happened right inside John’s bar.
In fairness to Jobert, “sticks and stones may break my bones” so he looked for a less violent avenue to vent his ire on. And in fairness to John, he had no avenue to speak of so his only recourse is to fume and shiver while reading the tabloid column of his ex-best friend. John, however, confessed in the TV interview that he avoids reading such articles. Amidst the threats and the arrogant challenges, one cannot imagine what would really happen if and when Jobert and John finally meet face to face sans the gloves and the karate kimono.
Writers are normally creative. The word creative came from the root word create. Therefore the writer has the liberty to choose what to create – positive or negative.
In a not so recent civil case against a popular noontime show host, the editor of a tabloid appeared very determined. But unlike Jobert Sucaldito whose victim frequently surfaces in his column, the plaintiff wrote about the case, stemming from an incident which supposedly occurred a few years back, only once. Unfortunately for the editor, she lost the case due to lack of evidence. Admired by her readers, the editor remained steadfast in her commitment to her chosen profession, i.e. writing fairly and squarely on the issues and personalities without fear or favor and personal flavor.
In another civil case filed by a known drama princess versus a non-showbiz writer, the combat was held in the legal arena and the issue was very rarely read in the print media. The respected writer was being accused of publishing without permission the Christening photos of the drama princess’ adopted child. It was actually the writer’s daughter who was the source of the controversy-laden photographs. But the drama princess had the firm resolve to pursue the case to the extent of requesting the courts to issue a TRO (temporary restraining order) against the writer who was pictured as a paparazzi. Fortunately for both protagonists, the case was amicably resolved.
Apparently, also amicably resolved was the issue between the tabloid writer and the losing politician because the writer’s column, once in a while, praises the hard stance of the politician who is now occupying a higher seat in the government. But the crossfire between John Lapus and Jobert Sucaldito is still in progress and not even Pablo Gomez, the known scriptwriter, had an inkling of what the ending would be.
In the recent Metro Manila Film Festival, an uproar was caused by the selection of Enteng Kabisote 3 as the Best Picture. Star Cinema, the aggrieved party, launched a civilized protest via a letter to the festival committee. Seeming like an orchestrated act, showbiz writers picked up the cue and joined in the battle of words. The bone of contention was the commercial viability criteria that did not sit well with Star Cinema despite the transparency in the procedures (the MMFF committee had vehemently declared the fact that all the producers had signed the festival mechanics with the criteria included therein). With the showbiz writers backing them up, how could Star Cinema lose the moral fight?
Seeing their underdog status with the sympathy of showbiz writers ranged against them, the festival committee exercised extreme prudence by just sleeping on the issue. MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando, also the overall committee chair of the MMFF, issued a statement only after the festival had ended. “Kita nyo, nakabuti pa ang kontrobersya dahil oo, may report nga na naungusan na ng Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo ang Enteng Kabisote 3 sa gross sales. Baka kung hindi nagkaroon ng kontrobersya eh hindi ganyan ang nangyari, ano? Ganyan naman talaga sa pinikula…”
But showbiz writers still had plenty to say. If the criteria was based on the box office sales, how come, now that Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo had eclipsed Enteng’s gross, that Enteng remains the Best Picture? Isn’t it proper to pass on the trophy to the producer of Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo? Chairman BF has this as a reply, “Yung first three days lang po ang pinagbasehan ng criteria.” The case rests… simply because the media has become silent. And owing to the elan of the showbiz writers regarding the MMFF 2006, the festival has broken the record of box office gross, earning P414 million, up from P351 million last year (based on the unofficial account of Dominic Du of the Theater Bookers).
It was more than a year ago when a former showbiz writer who was also a former councilor of a Metro Manila city asked me to ghost-write for him. “Maliit lang ang bayad, tabloid kasi pero… (giggles) madaming datung, yayaman ka,” the former writer, whose name comes in duplicates, ended his statement with an enigmatic guffaw. He pointed out that showbiz writers do celebrities a favor when they write about them so in return the writers expect to receive gifts, in cash or in kind. And if the favor was not returned? They are easy targets of malicious attacks!.
Indeed, showbiz writers have a potent weapon in their hands and lethal bullets in their heads. They can destroy a celebrity’s mood and shatter their confidence that can lead to career breakdown or vice-versa. They can make a superstar out of a homely-looking provincial lass or they can up the rating of a lousy TV show.
As a food for thought in this coming elections, writers, particularly showbiz writers, can make or unmake the career of a political aspirant. So I guess it’s only logical for showbiz politicians to hire showbiz reporters to be their drumbeaters.
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