Ongpin: Chiz Escudero and Heart Evangelista are my dear friendsBy Roberto V. Ongpin
Philippine Daily Inquirer
(Editor’s Note: The author sent the following statement to PDI to explain why his name cropped up in the Chiz Escudero and Heart Evangelista affair.)
I arrived yesterday (Thursday) from a monthlong business trip to several cities in Europe and was flabbergasted to read Mr. Ramon Tulfo’s column in which he made totally untrue statements about me. Why anyone would drag my name into such a silly affair will always be a mystery to me.
As a background, I think it is useful for your readers to know my relationship with Francis “Chiz” Escudero. As many of you may remember, his late father and I were both in the Cabinet of President Ferdinand Marcos. But I did not meet Chiz until early 2009, when a mutual friend called me that Chiz would like to meet me. I gracefully turned down the invitation to have dinner with him and said that I really do not want to get involved in politics anymore. But because he was very persistent and after about five calls, I agreed to have an early dinner with him at 5 p.m. at our mutual friend’s apartment.
I had never met this young man before, who was almost half my age, but I was very impressed (actually fascinated is a better word) with his intelligence and articulateness, and what to me was his amazing knowledge and grasp of Philippine politics.
At that time, he was still interested in running for President in the forthcoming elections but even from that first meeting, he never asked me for money. So the 5 p.m. dinner, which was meant to last an hour, lasted until midnight. We exchanged thoughts about the international economic situation, which he was very hungry for information and kept peppering me with questions. On my part, I told him why should he run for President at his very young age because even if he were elected, what would he do after six years? At 46 years, basically he would have nothing to do, I told him.
I was also fascinated by his intellect and his extremely perceptive views on the Philippine political scene, which I had been away from for over 20 years since the Marcos days, and we agreed to meet again the following week. Those meetings turned out to be fairly regular informal dinner sessions and I enjoyed them thoroughly. I guess Chiz did, too, because he would call me frequently and ask if we could get together again.
He was going through a difficult personal situation at that time and quite some time later, he decided not to run for President and support President Aquino instead. I listened to all of his thoughts but quite frankly, had nothing to do with his ideas. They were all his. Throughout all of this, I want to stress to everyone that never once did he ask me for a centavo. It was all mutual appreciation of each other’s experiences and interests; that was why we were having our almost regular weekly meetings.
The only time Chiz talked to me about money was when he had given up his ambition to run for the presidency and had thrown his support behind President Aquino. He told me that I should contribute to President Aquino’s campaign and I resisted because I don’t contribute to political campaigns. I told him that I don’t even live in the Philippines and no longer wanted to be involved in Philippine politics but he was so insistent that he was able to convince me to contribute. Unfortunately, Chiz found out later that somebody close to the President had poisoned the President’s mind about me that any money I contributed would come from ex-first gentleman Mike Arroyo (which was of course total hogwash). And so I was never a contributor and probably this is the reason why the kitchen sink, the toilet bowl and anything else you can think of is now being thrown at me.
One day last year, Chiz called me and said that he would like me to meet a friend, whom I found out later was Heart Evangelista. Apparently, while Chiz was in Davao one day, he had a call from Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who wanted to introduce him to Heart. This was shortly before or after Chiz got his annulment. I said of course I would love to meet her and she joined us for dinner. I found Heart to be not only a very beautiful and genuinely intelligent girl (I still keep teasing Chiz and asking him if I can take Heart out to dinner when he is busy campaigning and his answer is consistently, “No way!”)
The two are very much obviously in love with each other and I had no clue as to what Chiz’s relationships were with her parents because we never discussed any of that at all. Where Mr. Ongpauco got the idea that I was going to buy a house trailer for Heart, I will never know but I can tell you there is not a bit of truth in it. I do remember one evening when jokingly, I asked Heart what she would like for a Christmas gift and either Chiz or Heart (I don’t remember who) said maybe a trailer where she can rest in between her movie shootings. I said obviously in jest: “Well, why not, provided that I have visiting rights to the trailer when Chiz is out of town!” End of conversation. The trailer was never mentioned again.
I want to state clearly and unequivocally one more time that never has Chiz asked me for even a centavo for any reason whatsoever. I do remember that he had asked me to attend a fund-raising dinner and I said why should I waste my money when he was a sure winner. Besides, had he forgotten that my bank accounts were frozen!
I feel obligated to write this statement in fairness to both Chiz and Heart. They are two very wonderful people who are very much in love. I know from my own experience (since my wife’s parents, when I was courting her some 50 years ago, were totally opposed to me) how far parents who love their daughter and don’t like her boyfriend can go. But I was not a senator running for reelection but only a student so they could not get the media to go after me!
But what is happening to Chiz and Heart and the persistent attacks on them is certainly unfair and uncalled for. I have not talked to Chiz since I just got back yesterday and he may not appreciate this statement. However, I believe, as is my usual style, that I need to speak out when something so unfair and irrelevant is being perpetrated on dear friends of mine.
And as if I did not have enough troubles of my own because of the persistent attacks from certain levels of high government officials, the last thing I need is this kind of publicity. But what else can I do if I am busy working in Europe, minding my own business, and then I get back here and find this irrelevant trash being thrown around?