Tito Sotto and Joey de Leon talked about the rape case in 1982 (Part 2)

Senate President Tito Sotto. He is second in line in the Philippine leadership succession after the Vice President.

Senate President Tito Sotto. He is second in line in the Philippine leadership succession after the Vice President.

By Cristina P. del Carmen

Some movie reporters – about six of them – continuously write about them in a bad light, Joey de Leon complained. Some to the extent of using the trio’s most distorted looking faces in pictures, “para talaga mag mukhang criminal.” Tito Sotto does not mind really, but wondered, with some malice now, how these reporters could be convinced “by the other side.” Tito and Joey finally talked about the case, warming up to the interview after a quick lunch of Inihaw na Bangus and Guinataan.

The Sulo Hotel is ‘tambayan’ to the “Eat Bulaga” and “Iskul Bukol” cast, especially after taping sessions which last till late evenings or early mornings. Sulo became a favorite hangout because it is the place with the best and cheapest coffee nearest Broadcast City, Tito said. They discovered the restaurant’s cozy features in 1979 when one of the suites was rented out to Production Specialists, “Eat Bulaga’s” promoters. Since then, Tito, Vic, Joey, and Richie would entertain guests at Sulo-Diliman behind the SSS building and let them sample the Lumpiang Ubod, the specialty of the house. Contrary to the prosecution’s statement, Tito argued that Rm 210, is “not ours, it’s Sulo’s.”

His version of the “rape:” Pepsi and Guada coming from the taping of “Iskul Bukol,” where the two guested, hitched a ride with them to Sulo because they did not have enough money for cab fare. They rode in Vic’s car, and upon reaching the restaurant, the girls got in a cab safely. However, before they left Broadcast City, the girls asked for souvenir pictures of the boys kissing them. Hesitant at first, Vic and Joey later obliged. “First of all, Vic is newly married and it would hurt his wife Dina to see pictures of him kissing a girl,” piped in Joey. A shutter click caught Vic, wearing shades, kissing Pepsi.

“If you saw the uncropped picture,” Tito said, “you would see Pepsi’s hands holding on to Vic’s nape.”

Joey said when his turn to kiss came, Pepsi was still chewing bubble gum and was struggling to spit it out. Joey’s lips pressed hers and Richie clicked the camera again. “No wonder the expression on her face looked like she was getting out of Joey’s embrace,” Tito pointed out.

A newspaper coverage of Pepsi Paloma’s 1985 death by suicide

A newspaper coverage of Pepsi Paloma’s 1985 death by suicide

And where was Tito at the time? He was in the dressing room being massaged by an aide. Pepsi and Guada allegedly entered the room where the rest of the “Iskul Bukol” cast were taking a break. (“Iskul Bukol” and “Todas” are the other programs of the comedy trio. Joey has his own “Joey and Son,” Vic’s “Two Plus Two” co-stars him with wife Dina.)

About Pepsi’s claim that their blouses and pants were ripped to shreds exposing part of their breast, Tito poses this objection: “How can you easily rip a pair of maong? Supposed we did tear their shirts apart at Broadcast City, why would they follow us all the way to Sulo? To get a script? You mean nobody saw them in their tattered shirt? That’s impossible.”

During the preliminary arraignment at the Quezon City Fiscal’s Office on August 30, Joey, then wearing a ‘Coke is it T’ shirt, said the crowd that gathered before the fiscal’s sala waved at them. Even during the oath-taking before Assistant City Fiscal Eliodoro Lara’ he and Vic were simultaneously signing autographs. “This case is a blessing in disguise. We realize how much people loved us. Walang nangangantiyaw.” Joey recalled how one court clerk whispered she wished she were the one raped.

Tito, 34; Vic, 28; and Joey, 35, are basically broadcast buddies who think of print as a second-rate medium. Tito founded the Tilt Down Men, one of the top bands in the ‘60s. Vic was still in school, and Joey already an established disc jockey who at the peak of his broadcast career handled 12 radio programs at one time. He was once known as ‘Payola King’ not because he accepted grease money from record producers, but because he was an expert at cutting a playing record short so he could play more tunes and attract more sponsors. Tito married popular actress-singer Helen Gamboa 10 years later at about the same time that Joey’s marriage to Daria Ramirez was beginning to break up. Vic lived in his brother’s shadow, learning to play the guitar, sing and write songs, and do musical scores for movies.

Joey and the Sottos had met earlier but got to know each other better while doing “Okay Lang” with the Apo and Ricky Manalo in the early ‘70s. The channel 13 program established their knack at spoofing popular songs and making people laugh. “Okay Lang” was phased out and Channel 7’s Program Philippines wooed them to co-host “Discorama” with Bobby Ledesma. Having acquired a mass following after about 15 years of TV-movie exposure, the trio proved to be formidable on their own. Some producers thought they deserved their own show. “Eat Bulaga” soon became the new lunchtime staple, rivalling “Student Canteen” which had too predictable a format. At first the trio felt uneasy going against the Ilarde-Ledesma tandem. After all it was Ilarde’s Program Philippines that gave them the break. But the salary offer and the chance to go big time were too irresistible. Two years later “Eat Bulaga” dislodged “Student Canteen” from the Number 1 rating slot. The seesaw rating between the two shows was resolved early this year when EB went Domsat and Coney Reyes-Mumar joined the after getting sacked by SC management.

Popular pair Vic Sotto and Dina Bonnevie were newly married in the 1980s.

Popular pair Vic Sotto and Dina Bonnevie were newly married in the 1980s.

“In raping or in rating, we don’t resort to gimmicks,” Joey snorted. Television is the forerunner of the press, he added. It is newspapers and movies combined. Tito maintained they have never used TV against anybody the way Rey de la Cruz has been using his friends to exploit the rape story. “We don’t owe the press anything for what we are now,” chorused Tito and Joey. “We became popular because of our broadcast exposure. Nobody can claim they helped us in print.”

As for the rape case, Joey has said it has since become his dream to be a movie censor and purge fan magazines of undesirable reporters. Joey said he would send all the writers to grammar school where they could be taught to write and speak in straight English and Tagalog. Angry that some fan magazines and tabloid reporters have been coloring the rape case with malicious innuendos, Vic and Joey and Richie filed a P5.5 million libel suit against Artist magazine’s Vic Felipe and People’s Journal’s Diego Cagahastian. Now calling himself “press secretary” of the group, Joey said he is carefully monitoring four more movie columnists.

What if Pepsi asked for an out-of-court amicable settlement? “Inumpisahan nila, tapusin nila,” Joey threatened.

Isn’t Pepsi who is only 15, simply being dragged into the controversy by her manager? “It’s about time she wakes up,” Tito frowned.

Will she make it as a big star? “Notoriously, yes,“ Joey acidly commented.

How do they get the cynical public to believe they’re not guilty? “Pepsi should come out in the open and tell the truth. And the press should stop writing about the story. Somebody has called it a ‘cheap story’ and we believe it should stop at that.”

Part 1: It hurts only when they laugh (The 1982 Pepsi Paloma rape case)

© The FilAm 2018

Pages from the WHO Magazine article of 1982 pop up on Facebook.

Pages from the WHO Magazine article of 1982 pop up on Facebook.

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