Facebook Twitter

FILM FEST TURNS INTO REAL-LIFE MELODRAMA

SHARE FILM FEST TURNS INTO REAL-LIFE MELODRAMA

As police hustled her lawyer away, a wailing Ruffa Gutierrez returned her Best Actress trophy Monday but failed to persuade officials to stop a hearing into whether she won the award fraudulently.

The Manila municipal government virtually ground to a halt Monday as most City Hall employees jammed a second floor conference room for a hearing into the bizarre events of last Wednesday's Manila Film Festival awards ceremony.Gutierrez and her co-star Gabby Concepcion were "named" Best Actress and Best Actor by the Philippine equivalent of the Academy Awards for their roles in a takeoff on the Lorena Bobbitt case.

Moments later, the auditing firm that tallied the ballots said the real winners were actor Edu Manzano and actress Aiko Melen-dez. One of the presenters, Mauritius Viveka Babajee, left the country late Sunday to avoid threatened deportation for declaring Gutierrez the winner.

Monday, Gutierrez, second runnerup in the 1993 Miss World pageant, her mother, Annabelle Rama, and others were summoned to the mayor's office as part of an investigation into alleged fraud.

She arrived with the trophy. Her lawyer, Mario Reyes, said she was returning the trophy to avoid scandal. Reyes suggested authorities drop the investigation.

But Vice Mayor Lito Atienza refused. Reyes began shouting, and as tempers flared police grabbed the lawyer and hustled him into a nearby room to cool off. Gutierrez began wailing as her friend, actor Robin Hood "Bad Boy" Padilla, tried to defend Reyes.

Atienza said the probe would proceed as planned, and a panel of investigators began hearing testimony, which was broadcast live by commercial radio stations.

The awards scandal has become the talk of the Philippines, where scams involving sports, business and politics are popular fare.

One of the award co-presenters, actress Gretchen Barretto, told reporters that Concepcion's agent, Lolit Solis, asked her to read Gutierrez's name as the winner. She said Solis promised she would win the Best Actress award next year.

Barretto said she refused. During the awards night, however, her co-presenter, Babajee, shouted "Ruffa Gutierrez" as the winner.