There's been a lot of renewed interest in the story of actress Pepsi Paloma, who died in 1985. Her death was the last chapter of a long and lurid story that dominated the headlines for years—beginning with the very public spectacle of a rape case that she raised against TV show hosts Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon, and Richie D' Horsie in 1982, and ending with her suicide in 1985.
The story has remained on the fringes of public consciousness over the decades since, even as the accused in the case have gone on to resume their showbiz careers, save for Richie D' Horsie, who died in 2015. Tito Sotto, who has also been involved in the case as an ardent defender of his brother Vic, has gone on to an incredible political career that has him now as the sitting Senate President.
Interest in Paloma's case comes and goes, though lately it has attracted more attention than usual, largely thanks to Sen. Tito Sotto's controverial move to have articles written about the case taken down from the website of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and fueled by something called The Streisand Effect.
The details have become hazy through the years, what with Paloma's suicide and the subsequent murder of her manager, Rey de la Cruz, effectively silencing their side of the story.
But the universe hates a vacuum. So this week, as news that Inquirer.net has acquiesced to the senator's "request" to take down the articles, we have been gifted in return with an influx of new sources.
Self-described "white hat troll" Clara Balaguer has publicly uploaded pages from the September 1982 issue of Who magazine, published a few months after the alleged rape, which features an interview with Joey de Leon and Tito Sotto.
The cover of the magazine features the "comedy" trio, with the headline Tito, Vic, Joey Cry PRESS RAPE. (It was clearly a very different time then.)
The article from the now-defunct magazine was written by Cristina P. del Carmen, who interviewed a palpably angry de Leon and Tito Sotto for the piece titled "It Only Hurts When They Laugh":
Joey de Leon and Tito Sotto were more in the mood for a hearty meal than talk about the case last week. It was 2p.m. and they had just wound up another day of hosting the top-rating noontime show Eat Bulaga. Vic Sotto was not feeling well, and begged off from the interview, and drove off to the UP Teachers Village home he shares with wife Dina Bonnevie and daughter Danica. Elder brother Tito apologized for Vic who he says has been avoiding reporters since the case erupted. He and Joey could fill in on the questions.
The article from the now-defunct magazine was written by Cristina P. del Carmen, who interviewed a palpably angry de Leon and Tito Sotto for the piece titled "It Only Hurts When They Laugh"
Del Carmen goes on to write:
Vic was the shy type, Joey volunteered. Of the three, he is the least likely to commit a rape violation, Tito said of his younger brother.
Vic is frail and skinny, any woman can beat him in bunong braso. “From that angle alone, the story looked sensational. No wonder the press picked it up. Imagine Vic Sotto, babakla-bakla, raping a woman?” Tito mused.
The article also contains a diatribe against the media, as De Leon complains against the “trial by publicity.”
“Martial law should be declared again, so press freedom will be stopped,” he ventured. Tito, in the spirit of diplomacy, said that he found nothing wrong with a free press. Joey countered that when the press takes pot shots of what color panties movie stars are wearing, or why Maricel Soriano pays her paintings in installment or why Teresa Carlson was given a monkey on her birthday, “it no longer respects the great word freedom.” Instead, it uses people, plays with them and becomes unfair to those who get hit in the process. "Martial law should be returned," intoned Joey.
"In raping or rating, we don't resort to gimmicks," Joey snorted. Television is the forerunner of the press, he added. It is newspapers and movies combined. Tito maintained they have never used tv against anybody the way Rey de la Cruz has been using his friends to exploit the rape story. "We don't owe the press anything for what we are now," chorused Tito and Joey. "We became popular because of our broadcast exposure. Nobody can claim they helped us in print.
"'This case is a blessing in disguise. We realized how much people loved us. Walang nangangantiyaw,' Joey recalled how one court clerk whispered she wished she were the one raped."
The relatively short feature is nevertheless a gold mine for those interested in the Pepsi Paloma case, as it contains a great deal of detail from when the case was still very fresh. Not only is there a timeline to preface the interview, but there are also details—fresh from the horse's mouth, so to speak—from the perspective of the accused. According to the account, Pepsi Paloma and Guada Guarin shared a ride in Vic Sotto's car to Sulo Hotel, but once there "the girls got in a cab safely."
The piece is worth parsing if you're at all interested in the case; or, if you're merely curious about what passed for acceptable behavior for celebrities during the 1980s:
During the preliminary arraignment at the Quezon City Fiscal's office on August 30, Joey, then wearing a 'Coke is It' t-shirt, said the crowd gathered before the fiscal's sala waved at them. Even during the oath-taking before Assistant City Fiscal Eliodoro Lara, he and Vic were simultaneously signing autographs. "This case is a blessing in disguise. We realized how much people loved us. Walang nangangantiyaw," Joey recalled how one court clerk whispered she wished she were the one raped.
These pages could very well be the only surviving interview told from the perspective of the accused, with now-Senate President Sotto's own words featured prominently. And when you consider that De Leon and both Sottos have only more vehemently denied the allegations as interest in the case continues to mount, it seems less likely that they would offer any more substantial comments today. So it's important that we hold fast to these vestiges, and hope that if enough people see them, they will remain online, somewhere on the Internet.