“His heart could not take it.”
Cecile Ongpauco, mother of actress Heart Evangelista, said her husband has been experiencing chest pains as a result of a highly publicized “family feud” with their daughter over the latter’s relationship with Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
“If my husband suddenly dies from the stress, I know who to blame and I will be very bitter against those responsible,” Ongpauco said in a statement sent to the Inquirer Friday.
Ongpauco earlier demanded an apology from the senator for allegedly being disrespectful and arrogant and for “manipulating” her daughter into “going against the family.” She also claimed Escudero had “seduced” Evangelista into thinking he would become president by 2016.
She accused him of being an “opportunist” and demanded that Escudero leave her daughter alone.
“Rey is 70 years old. This issue about Heart has affected him badly,” Ongpauco told the Inquirer by phone Friday. “My other kids have already been informed. They are really worried about their father. We’re all trying to be strong for him.”
‘State of panic’
She said the Ongpauco patriarch refused to be taken to the hospital and has “taken refuge” at their rest house in Nasugbu, Batangas province.
Ongpauco said she was in a “state of panic” because of the poor health condition of her husband, who is suffering from heart pains, prostate ailment, diabetes and hypertension.
Ongpauco, who was convinced that Evangelista was “hiding from her family,” said she should visit her father immediately before his condition gets worse.
“For many years, our family has protected him from stress,” Ongpauco said of her husband, whom she described as a “walking time-bomb.” “He just arrived from a holiday abroad with [another] daughter [when he] was met with this scandal. His heart could not take it.”
She said she noticed that Rey was already feeling bad when they returned home from a press conference on Tuesday. “He decided to lie down,” she recalled. “The next day, he left right away for Nasugbu [to destress].”
She said the family would no longer grant any more requests for interviews.
“I’m now busy attending to my husband. My goal is to convince Rey to see a doctor. I’ve already said my piece. I now choose to be silent,” she said.
While her husband’s health is deteriorating, Ongpauco claimed that Escudero’s public relations team “has been working overtime to destroy the Ongpauco name.”
“First, Chiz’s PR (public relations) team said the Ongpaucos are destitute, and that he is doing Heart a favor. Now he himself is saying that we are rich. Our family is face-to-face with a dangerous politician,” she said.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Escudero claimed he has not done “anything bad” against Evangelista and her parents. “There is only one reason for everything they (the Ongpaucos) are doing and saying—they want us to separate.”
The senator also said Evangelista was “feeling hurt and sad” because of the controversy. “This has a big effect on her,” Escudero said. “But Heart is already at the right age (28 years old) and no one can dictate what she can and cannot do… She has her own mind and judgment… I try hard to understand Heart’s parents but what they are doing to me and their daughter is not right.”
Escudero also expressed hopes that “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.”
Escudero’s fellow legislators took his side in the dispute.
Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, a running mate of Escudero under the administration Team PNoy, said the 2016 election is the real target for the current moves to cut short the senator’s budding relationship with Evangelista.
“The senatorial election is definitely just a precursor, a front act to the main event, which is 2016. Obviously we cannot separate the intramurals from that. That is part of the political game,” said Angara.
Angara did not identify the possible rivals of Escudero in the 2016 elections, where he is expected to run either as President or Vice President. But just a few weeks into the campaign, Escudero complained that former President Joseph Estrada was undermining his senatorial bid.
Angara visited vote-rich Albay Friday to join Team PNoy’s political sortie. Escudero was conspicuously absent from the sortie and stayed in his hometown in Sorsogon.
Angara questioned the timing of the parents of Evangelista in hurling such accusations in the middle of the election campaign.
“Obviously, Senator Chiz is one of the front-runners in the survey. Probably there are some interest groups out to derail him,” said Angara.
Angara described Escudero as well-mannered, having known him back when he was a young representative in Congress. He advised Escudero “to make love, not war.”
Former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. concurred that Escudero’s high ratings in the surveys made him vulnerable to attacks. “It’s a human nature aspect,” said Magsaysay. “Senator Chiz is giving the right statements. He’s the person who feels stabbed and feels a little betrayed due to the lies being made publicly. It’s something private and personal.”
Reelectionist Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said he could “identify” with Escudero’s situation because it was a personal issue similar to the unwarranted attack made by rival senatorial bet Juan Miguel Zubiri, who accused Pimentel of being a wife beater. His estranged wife, Jewel Mae Lobaton, later denied the accusation.
“I hope that personal issues against the candidates—especially if these issues were available before the campaign—would not be disclosed now and accusers would just wait until the end of the campaign.”
Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, another Team PNoy candidate, has a different take on the matter.
In an interview, Villar empathized with Evangelista’s parents, saying it has been a long-held tradition in the country that “when you marry a girl, you also marry into her family, and that includes the parents.”