MANILA — Businessman Atong Ang on Thursday sought to clarify his involvement in a scuffle during the wake of Miguel Barretto, the patriarch of the showbiz Barretto clan, after being mentioned by Marjorie Barretto in her own account of the October 16 incident.
Marjorie, one of Miguel’s seven children with his widow Inday, detailed the physical confrontation in an October 22 interview aired on “TV Patrol.”
In the week since the controversy erupted, Ang became an unexpected, central figure in the latest feud to divide the Barretto family, with Marjorie and a niece, Nicole, on one side, and sisters Gretchen and Claudine, on the other.
Nicole is one four children of JJ Barretto with wife Marichi.
Ang has since explained his ties with the Barretto women, after his name was alluded to by Marjorie as a supposed “powerful boyfriend” of Gretchen.
He did so again on Thursday, to contextualize the events of October 16, in an interview with “TV Patrol” anchor Noli de Castro.
3 BARRETTO WOMEN
As he did in an earlier statement, Ang insisted that Gretchen, along with the former actress’ long-time partner Tonyboy Cojuangco, are business partners in his casino and cockfighting businesses. His and Gretchen’s family are close and frequently travel together, he said.
Ang also reiterated that he got acquainted with Claudine when he helped the youngest Barretto sibling with a legal spat in 2010. At the time, Ang recalled he mediated between Claudine and the Castro family of Bulacan, whom he counts as friends, but did not give further details.
The “tsismis” that he and Claudine were romantically involved, Ang surmised, stemmed from them being seen together at a Pasay casino where they would have meetings to iron out the problem.
Ang met Claudine and Gretchen, as well as Marjorie, through Nicole and her mother Marichi, when they would bring him to family gatherings. While initially, Ang, in his statement, said the mother and daughter were merely employed by him, on Thursday he neither confirmed nor denied being once in a relationship with Nicole.
Marjorie had alleged Nicole was Ang’s girlfriend of five years, until Gretchen supposedly “stole” him from the younger Barretto.
Ang now said he preferred to keep mum on his history with Nicole, out of respect to her and her current partner, only saying he once had a close relationship with her entire family.
Without going into details, Ang said his ties with Nicole’s family were strained due to “misunderstandings.”
“Minsan talaga, hindi magkakasundo, e,” he said. “Pero wala akong masasabi sa pamilya niyan. Ayos ‘yan. Kung anuman ‘yung pinagsamahan namin ni Marichi, nila Nicole, sa akin na lang ‘yon. May kaniya-kaniya tayong buhay, so bakit natin kailangan i-expose ang buhay natin?”
When asked to react to Marjorie’s claim that Gretchen “stole” Nicole from him, Ang said: “Unang-una, walang agawan, dahil hindi naman kami ni Gretchen.”
Gretchen, in fact, is close to his wife, Ang said. Similarly, he has frequent meetings with Cojuangco.
ARRIVING AT THE WAKE
Ang pointed out that it was actually Cojuangco who asked him to accompany Gretchen to the wake of her father on the night of October 16.
Gretchen hadn’t planned on visting the wake at The Heritage Park in Taguig, for fear that her presence would only lead to friction, according to Ang.
She, however, felt compelled to show up after the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) asked her twice to be present when President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the wake.
“Si Gretchen kasi, malapit kay Presidente,” Ang said. “Ang sabi, pupunta sa patay si Presidente. ‘Kung puwede, pumunta ka.’ Ang sabi sa akin ni Gretchen, ang sagot daw niya, ‘Pakisabi kay sir, huwag na po, kasi baka magkagulo lang.’”
Gretchen, according to Ang, eventually yielded. However, her partner, Cojuangco, couldn’t commit to going as he was nursing a back ache that day.
“Tumawag sa akin si Tony. Sabi sa akin, ‘Pare, pakisamahan si Gretchen, baka mapaaway ‘yan doon.’ Iyon ang sabi sa akin ni Tony… Sabi ko, ‘Sige, samahan ko na lang.’ Kausap ko si Gretchen, ‘Sige, samahan na lang kita,’” he said.
Ang, in his interview, then addressed Marjorie’s earlier revelation that Nicole was supposedly asked to leave the wake by his camp, so she would not cross paths with him nor Gretchen.
Ang confirmed that Nicole did have communication with his daughter, to whom she was close. He, however, clarified that, contrary to the impression created by Marjorie, he did not “warn” Nicole there would be conflict, but only asked that Gretchen be allowed to visit without any hostility.
Nicole, according to Ang, was the one who called his daughter saying, “Pakisabi sa papa mo, for respeto, huwag na silang pumunta sa patay.”
“Unang-una, bakit hindi invited? Anak ‘to,” Ang said, referring to Gretchen. “Ang eksaktong sabi ko sa anak ko, ‘Pakisabi kay Nicole, pupunta lang naman kami doon para kay Presidente. Sasamahan ko si Gretchen. Baka magkagulo, kailangan ko samahan, sabi ni Tony.’”
“Ang in-advise ko, ‘Pakisabi na lang kay Nicole, kung ayaw nilang makita, huwag na lang sila magpakita. Pag-alis ni Presidente, aalis din kami, e.’ Iyon ang sinabi ko, iyon ang sinabi niya kay Nicole.
“Hindi ako nag-warning. Nagsabi lang ako na huwag na magkita-kita para huwag magkagulo,” Ang said.
‘RESPETO KAY PRESIDENTE!’
Ang went on to corroborate details of the wake, as seen in videos posted by Claudine and Gretchen, and as narrated in part by Marjorie: the President arrived around 10 minutes before Gretchen and Ang; once there, Gretchen walked ahead to greet her mother Inday and the President, with Ang staying behind, near the door; and the President witnessed the tearful reunion of Gretchen with her mother, after years of estrangement.
“Nakita ko, umiyak si Gretchen. Nagyakapan na ‘yung dalawa. Nag-iiyakan ‘yung dalawa. At least, nagkasundo,” Ang recalled.
According to Ang, about half an hour passed before President Duterte stood to lead Gretchen and Marjorie towards each other, confirming earlier accounts that the Chief Executive did attempt to mediate between the feuding sisters.
“Inaalalayan ko, baka magsalpukan. Nakatayo ako, nakatingin lang ako sa kanila,” he said. “Narinig ko, sumigaw si Marjorie. Nakita ko si Gretchen — narinig ko — sabi, ‘Sir, ako na ho, mas matanda ako, e.’”
As admitted by Marjorie in her interview, Ang recalled that the younger Barretto refused to shake hands with Gretchen, who had already extended hers.
At that point, Marjorie clashed with Claudine, Ang said. This lines up with Marjorie’s interview, where she said Claudine shouted, “You’re unbelievable!” Claudine did admit to that outburst in a subsequent interview on DZMM.
“Sila ni Claudine ‘yung nagbanggaan. Hindi nakikialam si Gretchen,” Ang said. “Ang ginawa ko, noong nakita kong nagkagulo, hinawakan ko si Claudine. Sabi ko, ‘Clau, tigil.’”
As the commotion escalated, Ang said he put his arm between President Duterte and Marjorie. He denied Marjorie’s claim that he had attempted to grab or yank her.
“Humarang akong gano’n. Sabi ko, ‘Respeto!’ Nakitingin ako sa mata niya. ‘Respeto kay Presidente,’ ang sinasabi ko. Dalawang beses ako nagsalita. Sabi ko, ‘Respeto!’
“Hinarang ko kamay ko, kasi mamaya may gumano’n na kamay, tamaan si Presidente, e. Si Presidente pinoproteksyunan ko at saka si Gretchen. Hinarang ko katawan ko. Sa totoo, ako tatamaan, e. Ako nga naitulak papasok, e,” Ang narrated.
Addressing Marjorie, he added: “Kung sinabi mong hahablutin kita, matinong tao ako. Sa harap ng Presidente, mananakit ako ng babae? At saka hindi ako nananakit ng babae, wala sa ugali ko ‘yon.”
The scuffle did not end there, with Nicole supposedly attempting to charge towards Gretchen’s direction, according to Ang.
“Paglingon ko naman sa kaliwa, sumusugod naman si Nicole, lumalapit. Pumihit na ako, lumapit ako kay Nicole, ta’s lumapit din ‘yung boyfriend niya,” he said.
Referring to his outstretched arm, Ang said, “Dumikit si Nicole sa akin… Sabi ko, ‘Nicole, please, nagkakagulo na. Please, labas na kayo.’”
Ang recounted that a sibling of Nicole was also poised to charge towards the commotion, but the Presidential Security Group (PSG) held him back. He said he likewise had to ask Gia, another sibling of Gretchen and Marjorie, to “keep distance” so the situation wouldn’t worsen.
“Hindi ako puwede magsinungaling. Andiyan si Presidente, andiyan ang PSG,” Ang said. “‘Yun lang ang naging papel ko. Tapos umatras na ako, tahimik na ako, sila na ang nag-uusap.”
Ang made no mention of Marjorie’s allegation that Gretchen “beat up” Nicole after the initial tension had eased, while Marjorie was seated with the President at the “farthest couch” from her older sister.
‘TIGILAN NIYO NA’
At the end of Marjorie’s interview on Tuesday, she made a public plea to Ang not to harm her for naming him, saying she had been warned by friends that businessman “could get back at me.”
Ang replied on Thursday: “Sa drama niyo, sa away niyo, wala akong pakialam diyan. Kung may dapat kang katakutan, I think ‘yung family ni Recom (Echiverri). Idineklara mong kabit ka, e. Dapat kang matakot, may mga anak ‘yon. Doon ka dapat matakot.”
Ang was referring to Marjorie’s admission that the father of her 7-year-old daughter, Erich, is former Caloocan City Mayor Recom Echiverri. Gretchen, in snide posts about Marjorie, had been alluding to her own “powerful boyfriend,” and would refer to her as “Marjorie Barretto Echiverri.”
Addressing Marjorie, Ang went on: “Sa akin, hindi kita kaano-ano, ni hindi ka nga natsismis na girlfriend ko, so bakit kita sasaktan? Kung binulgar mo ako, huwag kang mag-alala. Sikat naman ako talaga. Ang daming nagbubulgar sa akin, kaya okay lang. Baliwala sa akin ‘yun. Hindi nga ako artista, talagang open ang buhay ko sa tao.”
Ang, who made headlines in 2001 when he was co-accused in the plunder case of then-President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, then circled back to Marjorie’s accusations of extra-marital affairs with her relatives.
“Mahal ko ang pamilya ko. Tandaan niyo ‘to. Family man ako. Wala akong bisyo. Mahal ko asawa ko, mahal ko mga anak ko, nakikita ng mga tao kumakain kami lahat, lumalabas kami, very close kami. Hindi ko ipagpapalit kahit maski kaninong babae ang pamilya ko,” he said.
Asked for his message to the warring Barretto sisters, Ang said: “Sa inyong mga Barretto, since naging parang family ko kayo, nilalahat ko na kayo: Namatay na ‘yung tatay niyo. Ngayon, nag-iisa na ang nanay niyo. Magtulong-tulong na lang kayo, magbigay kayo ng pera, buhayin niyo, pilitin niyong maka-survive ang nanay niyo.
“Kaming magkakapatid, hindi kami magkakasundo, pero hindi kami naggaganiyanan. Pabayaan niyong lumabas ang nanay niyo sa isang side, pabayaan niyo ‘yung kabila. Huwag kayo magsiraan.
“Kung ako kayo, magkabati-bati na kayo. Tutal, ang media naman natutuwa lang pag nagkakagulo kayo, e. Anyway, nakakatulong naman kayo, nagkakaroon ng libangan ang mga tao. Kung gusto niyo ituloy ‘yan, mga artista naman kayo, ituloy niyo. Pero suggestion ko lang, tigilan niyo na.”
He then brought up the collateral damage of the family feud going public, notably on the third-generation Barrettos whose careers and lives are being affected.
“Nabababoy ‘yung mga anak… Tingnan mo, ikaw Marjorie, nasisira tuloy ‘yung mga anak mo. May career pa naman ‘yung anak mo. Itago niyo na ‘yung mga ganiyan, nasisira, e,” he said, referring to young actress Julia.
“Hindi naman kayo sisikat, Marjorie o Gretchen, kung mag-aaway kayo. Pareho naman kayong hindi na nag-aartista. Stop na ‘yan. Alagaan niyo na lang ‘yung family niyo,” he said.