Claudine's camp mulls libel suit vs Gretchen

Posted at 12/20/2013 8:20 PM | Updated as of 12/21/2013 1:20 AM
Celebrity sisters Claudine and Gretchen Barretto. Composite image

Barretto mom 'in tears' over Gretchen's testimony

MANILA -- The camp of former TV star Claudine Barretto has threatened to sue her sister, actress Gretchen, over her supposedly libelous statements in relation to the younger Barretto's marital spat and their controversial family feud.

Speaking with ABS-CBN News' Marie Lozano on Friday, Claudine's legal counsel, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, said Gretchen should be "held to account" for her statements about her sister in her recent media interviews.

"Ms. Gretchen Barretto has been saying so many things that are libelous. I think it's about time she's held to account. Dapat panagutin na siya sa mga sinasabi niya," the lawyer said.

Topacio said he had already recommended the legal step to Claudine when Gretchen first went on the record with her allegations. But according to the lawyer, Claudine decided against it supposedly because she was concerned with how it may affect Gretchen's daughter.

"Alam niyo, sinabi ko na 'yan kay Ms. Claudine Barretto noon pang unang-unang nagpa-interview si Ms. Gretchen Barretto na sampahan na ng kaso, because na pe-prejudice 'yung kanyang kaso rito, 'yung mind ng public.

"Ang sabi ni Ms. Claudine Barretto sa akin, huwag daw sapagkat si Ms. Gretchen Barretto raw ay nasa London kasama ang kanyang anak na si Dominique. Baka daw ma-distract 'yung pag-aaral ni Dominique dahil may kaso ang kanyang ina," said Topacio.

"But now, I think it's about time that she's held to account," he added. "Dahil baka akala ni Ms. Gretchen Barretto na she's above the law because of her stature, because of her so-called sponsor. [She thinks] she can [flout] the law at walang consequence."

"We will show her that it is otherwise."

Gretchen's long-time partner, and the father of Dominique, is businessman Antonio "Tonyboy" Cojuangco, the former chairman of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT).

Asked what cases they are specifically planning to file against Gretchen, Topacio said, "Huwag muna natin i-telegraph 'yung mga punches natin. Basta we will punch."

Gretchen's testimony

Gretchen's latest statements about Claudine was on Thursday, when she appeared as a witness in court for the younger Barretto's husband, actor Raymart Santiago, in cases involving the former couple.

The hearing, held at the Marikina Regional Trial Court, was for the consolidated cases of Claudine's petition for a protection order against Santiago, and their custody battle over their two children.

Claudine's petition for a protection order stems from her allegations of "physical, sexual, psychological and economic" against Santiago, which the actress detailed in an Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children (VAWC) case she filed against him in August. These alleged abuses, Claudine said, date back to 2002.

Before and after the hearing on Thursday, Gretchen granted interviews where she mentioned Claudine's alleged stint in a rehabilitation center, and her recommendation to give her sister the same treatment for her supposed condition.

Gretchen, in a published statement in October, said her sister is mentally ill and has a history of drug abuse. She said her family, at one point, had to conspire to have Claudine hospitalized for treatment.

Santiago made the same allegations in his counter-affidavit in the VAWC case, which included sworn statements from Gretchen and two other Barretto siblings, Majorie and JJ, supporting his claims.

According to Topacio, Barretto matriarch Inday was in tears over Gretchen and JJ testifying against Claudine, who is the youngest of seven siblings.

"Medyo naapektuhan ata siya sa nangyari. Ang sabi nga niya, assuming without conceding na may problema si Claudine, at kung talagang mahal mo 'yung kapatid mo, the way to show that love is not to go out in public and accuse her of so many things. E 'di lalong magkakaroon ng problema, 'yun ang sabi niya sa akin," the lawyer said.

"Umiiyak nga siya kanina, bago ako malabas sandali, nakausap namin si Mommy Inday," he added.

In her interview after the hearing on Thursday, Gretchen emphasized that she only gave her testimony in the case out of love and concern for her youngest sister.

'Distraught' Claudine

Asked when Claudine is planning to address her sister's public statements -- the court cases are under a gag order -- Topacio said, "She is quite distraught at present. Sabi ko huwag na muna. I will have to take it from here."

"She's really hurt that she was not given the chance to confront the witness against her. They are her own flesh and blood eh, so talagang masakit. Iba 'yung kalaban mo ang hindi mo kaano-ano eh, at iba 'yung kalaban mo 'yung taong minahal mo," the lawyer said.

Topacio also lamented that he was supposedly not given the opportunity to cross-examine Gretchen and JJ, who both took the witness stand on Thursday.

The lawyer explained that they had requested the Marikina RTC to move the hearing to a later date, citing his illness. Topacio said that on the day of the hearing, he was brought to the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa due to diarrhea and vomiting.

"Not only was there a valid reason para mag-postpone, which is my illness, but 'yung dalawang witness na inihain nila are vital witnesses. These are important witnesses.

"At kailangan ma-cross-examine -- hindi ko sinasabi na nagsisinungaling o hindi totoo 'yung sinasabi nila -- [dahil] the most effective method of finding out whether a witness is telling the truth or not is cross-examination. At iyon ang pinagkait sa amin," he said.

Topacio's associate, Atty. Ivy Cabatingan, represented Claudine in the court hearing on Thursday. Topacio noted that Cabatingan does not usually litigate.

'What threat?'

Meanwhile, Topacio denied Gretchen's allegations that her father, Miguel, threatened to kill her, JJ and Marjorie, if they show up in court and testify against Claudine.

"There are no such threats. If she believes there are threats, she has her remedies. She has her lawyers, magagaling ang mga abogado niya. Why does she not take the corresponding legal measures to protect herself, and to prosecute those na naggawa ng threat? Madaling magsabing may threat, but to substantiate it is another matter," he said.

The lawyer added that the Barretto patriarch is set to address Gretchen's accusation sometime next week, when he returns home from a trip in Subic.