MARICHU MACEDA AGAINST ‘BUTAKAL’ FILM SHOWING
Quezon City, Oct. 13, 1999 - Marichu Vera-Perez Maceda, wife of Philippine Ambassador to the United States Ernesto Maceda, wrote an open letter openly opposing the public exhibition of the controversial film ‘Butakal’ which a court has stopped from being shown in movie houses.
Manay Ichu takes the position that the film, produced and directed by Toto Natividad, was patterned after the heinous/gruesome rape-murder of the Chiong sisters.
Here's her "Statement of Concern" published by several Manila newspapers:
I read about the case of the two sisters, Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, sometime in March this year. I had just come back from the States and it was the first thing I read in the newspapers. After reading, I went to the Mt. Carmel Church the next day to light candles for the two sisters and their mother.
Two months later, sometime in May, while watching the news on TV, I saw the conviction of seven men and then I saw the face and eyes of Mrs. Chiong. My heart broke. While everyone else was howling and screaming over the verdict, she just sat there, seemingly alone and devastated in her grief. That image remains in my mind to this day.
About two weeks ago, I watched Dong Puno Live and saw movie director Toto Natividad talking about his film, Butakal. I listened as he denied that the film in question was patterned after the Chiong case. A few days later, I learned there was a problem with MTRCB. That was when I decided to do some investigating of my own.
I learned that during the screening at the MTRCB, among those present was Carina Agarao whose late husband, Clarence, was a good friend of mine. In a meeting with her, she brought along Marichu Jimenea, a sister of the mother (Mrs. Thelma Chiong), of the two victims. They explained to me the many similarities they saw between the actual case and the movie.
I chose a few to include in this Statement. The film community is very small. There are few, if any, events that remain hidden.
I met with two reputable film producers, one of whom I had known for decades. They admitted to me that the director, Toto Natividad, had approached them and tried to sell the movie project to them. He carried a brown envelope filled with newspaper clippings about the Chiong case. I was told that he even suggested to one of the producers that they should shoot the picture in Cebu which, as everyone knows, is where the crime was committed.
The Vera Perez family, to whom I belong, is synonymous with the movie industry. As far back as I can remember in the tradition of my parents and grandparents, I have been a staunch champion for the cause of Philippine cinema. I have been sensitive to the efforts exerted by our artists who have dedicated their lives to their craft. I have never opposed any Filipino film. On the contrary, I have consistently come out with flags waving in defense of our industry.
But this is where I draw the line. This is where I say, Enough! In the name of all that is good and decent, we must stop this. I am a mother, and I cannot bear to sit idly by, when the very core of another mother's heart has been excised and mutilated. My grandmother also lost a son. He died of a natural illness when he was 21 years old. To her dying day, she never fully recovered from her pain. My mother lost a son, too, at the age of 26, 21 years ago. To this day, she has not fully recovered. How much more when a mother loses two daughters, so violently, to rape? And one of them has not even been found!
Attached is a list of similarities between the Chiong case and the film, Butakal, based on the findings of the group that watched the movie in MTRCB. I shall mention just a few:
1. In the Chiong case, there are eight accused. In the movie of Butakal, there are also eight. 2. In the Chiong case, the names of the two sisters are Marijoy and Jacqueline. In the movie, the names of the two "sisters" are Cherry and Sandra Tan. Both surnames are of Chinese origin.
3. In the Chiong case, two witnesses saw the accused forcibly drag the two sisters into a car upon coming out of a mall late in the evening of a rainy night while waiting for their father to fetch them. In the movie, the eight actors also forcibly drag the two "sisters" while they are coming out of a shopping mall to meet their "father" who was going to pick them up.
4. In the Chiong case, the accused used two cars, one red and one blue in abducting both sisters. In the movie, the "kidnappers" also used two cars, one red and one blue.
5. In the Chiong case, a witness testified that the accused rented a van where they put the two sisters and raped them. In the movie, the "kidnappers" also rented a van.
6. In the Chiong case, one of the accused who turned state witness and was subsequently acquitted, was named Rusia. In the movie, one of the "kidnappers" who turned state witness and was later acquitted was also named "Rusia." They did not even bother to change the name.
7. In the Chiong case, the body of one of the sisters, Marijoy, was found in a deep ravine. In the movie, the body of one of the sisters was also found in a deep ravine.
The only big difference between the Chiong case and the movie are as follows:
a) In the movie, the accused were convicted with death by lethal injection. In the Chiong case, the accused were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
b) In the movie, one of the sisters was found dead and was buried. In the Chiong case, to this day, the body of Jacqueline has not been found.
We must appeal to our legislators, to enact laws that will ensure that victims of heinous crimes are protected from those who would market their pain for profit. We need laws that will allow the bereaved to grieve in private, away from prying eyes. The law should be clear and unequivocal in its intent; that henceforth, and without exception, it will be illegal to make money at the expense of the tragedy, pain and misery of our fellowmen.
It is my prayer that our legislators listen carefully to the cry of mothers all across the land, whose children have disappeared or have been brutalized by the demented individuals who roam the earth. And the next time they stand up to speak in both Houses of Congress, I pray that our lawmakers bring words of comfort and peace to the hearts that will never, ever, be whole again.
Marichu Vera-Perez Maceda
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