This, according to Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, is the only reason the parents of his girlfriend, Heart Evangelista, have publicly lashed out at him in the middle of his reelection campaign.
“I have not shown or done anything bad against Heart and her parents. They know that. There is only one reason for everything they are doing and saying, everything they will do and will say—they want to break us up, they want us to separate,” Escudero said in Filipino.
Speaking in a press conference at the Naga City gymnasium before an afternoon sortie of Team PNoy, Escudero said that more than the elections, he was concerned about Evangelista, who he said had taken her parents’ media barrage against their relationship “very badly” because she really cared for them.
“Before these things happened, my relationship with Heart was fun and smooth with no worries. She was good, smart, cheerful and very nice to chat with,” Escudero said. “This has a big effect on her. We cannot blame her for feeling hurt and sad.”
“But Heart is already at the right age [28 years old] and no one can dictate on what she can and cannot do, what she can say and cannot say. She has her own mind and judgment,” the senator said.
“I hope we respect whatever she decides. I love her but it is clear that what we are going through is tough. I’m also hurt but I hope they won’t use it in the elections. But if they do, I just hope they only hit me and not her.”
Not license to belittle anyone
In an interview with the Inquirer on Wednesday, the actress’ mother, Cecile Ongpauco, demanded an apology from the senator for allegedly being disrespectful and arrogant and for “manipulating” her daughter into “going against the family.”
Ongpauco also claimed that Escudero had “seduced” her daughter into thinking that he would become President by 2016 and described him as a “Jekyll-and-Hyde personality” and an opportunist. She said the senator should “leave my daughter alone.”
Evangelista is the youngest of the Ongpaucos’ six children.
Talking with reporters, Escudero said a newspaper columnist—referring to the Inquirer’s Ramon Tulfo, who broke the news of the Ongpaucos’ supposedly low opinion of Escudero and their opposition to the love affair—was correct in saying that he was way below the Ongpaucos’ financial and social stature.
“There is no doubt that her parents are far richer and more moneyed than mine. Her parents might be correct that I cannot afford to sustain the lifestyle they gave her. But whatever I have is enough for me,” Escudero said.
“But no matter how much money they have, it is not a license to belittle anyone or pour scorn on my character because my family is also affected.”
For children’s sake
Escudero said he had to speak publicly on the matter because his twins from a previous marriage were already aware of public issues involving their father.
He said he also wanted to spare his mother, who has yet to get over the death of his father, Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero, and who was being portrayed as having failed to raise her son properly.
“I try hard to understand Heart’s parents but what they are doing to me and their daughter is not right,” Escudero said. “I am also a parent and I love my children but I won’t involve or hurt others for the sake of my love for my children. And if I have differences with my children, I won’t make it public, hold a press conference, and drag in other people.”
Escudero apologized for coming out to express his side after Evangelista’s parents attacked him in media interviews.
“This is too much and I hope it ends soon so that no one else would be hurt or get dragged into this. I pray that we get through this challenge in our relationship,” said Escudero, who refused to take any questions after making his five-minute statement.
Escudero said this would be the last time he would address this issue in public.
Escudero’s speech during the Team PNoy rally was brief. He stayed only a few minutes on the stage with the other candidates and spent a few minutes exchanging notes with actor Aga Muhlach, the Liberal Party’s candidate for Camarines Sur representative.
The senator slipped out hurriedly even before President Aquino joined the candidates.
Escudero’s friend, senatorial candidate Grace Poe, disputed Ongpauco’s harsh views about Escudero.
“I have not known him to be disrespectful, especially to parents. He is respectful and very caring,” Poe told reporters. “He is just my age and yet he stood up as my kuya (elder brother) when I lost my dad (the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.) and he is very close to my mom (actress Susan Roces).”
Visit to Robredo
In his speech, Escudero only acknowledged that he was “at the center of a controversy” but did not talk about it. Instead, he asked the party’s local candidates for their support despite the controversies he now faced.
About 40 Liberal Party candidates from all over Camarines Sur gathered at the gym for Aquino’s official proclamation of local party candidates.
Among the Team PNoy senatorial candidates who came with the President were Poe, Koko Pimentel, Ramon Magsaysay, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Cynthia Villar and Jamby Madrigal.
During his visit, the President squeezed in a brief stop at the grave of late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo at Eternal Gardens cemetery, had lunch and led the groundbreaking of a museum for Robredo.
Robredo’s widow, Leni, is the Liberal Party’s congressional candidate for the third district of Camarines Sur and was among those who attended the proclamation rally.—With Juan Escandor Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon