Celebrity sisters Claudine and Gretchen Barretto. Composite image
'I love Claudine with all my heart,' says Gretchen
MANILA -- Actress Gretchen Barretto appeared in court Thursday to testify against her sister, former TV star Claudine, despite supposedly fearing for her life after allegedly being threatened by her father.
Gretchen's testimony, which was heard at the Marikina Regional Trial Court, is in relation to the legal feud of Claudine and husband Raymart Santiago, who are both seeking the custody of their children.
According to the actor's legal counsel, Atty. Ruth Castello, the hearing on Thursday morning was for the consolidated cases of Claudine's petition for a temporary protection order (TPO) against Santiago, and the former couple's custody battle.
"Na-summon na kami ng korte para magsalita," Gretchen told reporters shortly before the hearing. "Mabuti na rin para masabi namin ang katotohanan. Gusto lang naman namin na lumabas ang katotohanan, at mabigyan ng hustisya si Raymart."
Claudine's petition for a protection order stems from her allegations of "physical, sexual, psychological and economic" against Santiago, which the actress detailed in an Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children (VAWC) case she filed against him in August. These alleged abuses, Claudine said, date back to 2002.
The couple married in church rites in March 2006. They have two children -- an adopted daughter, Sabina, 9; and a biological son, Santino, 6.
In his counter-affidavit in the VAWC case, Santiago accused his wife of domestic violence, having a history of drug abuse and mental illness. The actor's statements were supported by accounts of Gretchen, along with two other Barretto siblings, Marjorie and JJ, in the same affidavit.
Gretchen, in a published statement in October, went on to detail this alleged illness and drug use, and how their family supposedly conspired to have Claudine hospitalized for treatment.
Testifying despite 'threat'
Asked if she would bare more details about her allegations in her testimony, Gretchen said, "Siyempre pag nasa korte, more than that. May mga hindi tayo pwedeng sabihin sa publiko na pwede natin sabihin sa korte."
Referring to Santiago, Gretchen continued, "Hindi niya naman kami kailangan i-convince dahil alam namin ang katotohanan. So kusa namin talagang gustong ilabas nga ang katotohanan. 'Yung mga alegasyon kay Raymart, mali. Hindi makatarungan. 'Yun lang naman ang gusto namin, to correct it."
"So nagdadasal ako na sana makatulong ito sa lahat, hindi lang para kay Raymart, pero para kay Claudine, para mabigay kay Claudine 'yung mga kailangan niya, 'yung kanyang... Sana mapagamot siya, sana mapabuti na buhay niya, sana maging safe na 'yung mga anak niya. 'Yun lang naman 'yung gusto natin," she said.
Prior to appearing in court, Gretchen said her father, Miguel, threatened her as well as JJ and Marjorie in relation to the hearing. The actress accused the Barretto patriarch of threatening to shoot them should they testify against Claudine, who is the youngest of seven siblings.
"Hindi ko alam [kung handa akong makita ang mga magulang ko], hindi ko naisip 'yon," Gretchen said. "Isa lang ang iniisip ko -- na mabigyang linaw ang dapat. 'Yun ang gusto ko para sa lahat, para sa pamilya Santiago, para sa aming magkakapatid din.
"Alam mo, matapang naming hinaharap ito, ang katotohanan. Ang tatay ko, sabi niya sa kapatid kong si Mito at sa pamangkin ko na si John Barretto... Sabi ng tatay ko, na kapag nag-witness si JJ, si Marjorie at ako, babarilin daw niya kami. So nandito ako, may takot, pero haharapin ko 'to dahil ito ang katotohanan."
For Claudine's sake
After the closed-door hearing, Gretchen emphasized she only testified against Claudine out of love and concern, saying she is actively seeking ways to get her treatment for her alleged condition.
"It was very emotional for me, dahil siyempre babalikan mo lahat ng mga naging nightmare sa buhay namin. Pero kinakailangan gawin. I'm hoping that later on, when Claudine is in a better state, she will be thankful," said Gretchen.
Asked to confirm whether she said in the court room that Claudine should be admitted to a rehabilitation center, Gretchen said, "Nasabi ko sa korte 'yon."
"'Yun ang wish ko, 'yun ang pinagdadasal namin, na she will get the treatment that she needs para maayos naman ang buhay niya, para maging safe niya, para maging safe ang mga tao sa paligid niyo, and most especially 'yung mga anak niya," she said.
Gretchen refused to detail her recommendations regarding the treatment, but offered that Claudine's alleged last rehab was at a "first-class" facility.
"I don't know kung sino ang pwede naming kausapin, kung saan siya dapat. Pero iyon ang hinihingi namin sa korte," she said.
'We want to save her'
The actress was quick with an answer when asked if she still loves her younger sister, with whom she has had several publicized spats separate from this legal case involving Santiago.
"I love her, with all my heart. Dahil kung hindi ko siya mahal, wala ako rito [at] hindi ko ipaglalaban ito, 'yung tama," Gretchen said. "Ayokong magising siya, napakarsel niya 'yung asawa niyang nagmahal sa kanya for a very long time and who took take care of her, and who was a very good husband to her."
Gretchen went on to relate Claudine's supposed stint in a rehabilitation facility in 2011, noting that Santiago had been an unfailing presence despite his wife's condition then.
"I know that for sure because malapit kami ni Claudine. 'Yun ang parati niyang kinikwento sa 'kin," she said. "Nung lumabas siya ng rehab nung Febraury 2011, parati niyang sinasabi, paulit-ulit na, 'Buti nalang hindi ako iniwan ni Raymart. He was very patient. Mahal niya ako, mahal ko siya.'"
Claudine, according to Gretchen, was also thankful to her family at the time for attending to her condition. "Meron ngang sulat pang binigay sa akin si Claudine na hopefully soon, pwede kong mailabas 'yon, [saying] that she was very grateful that we put her in rehab, that we took care of her, that we're patient."
"So I'm hoping that after lahat ng mga gulo na nangyayari, ma-realize niya na ang ginawa naming mga magkakapatid is to save her."
Claudine did not attend the hearing on Thursday, as she was not required by the court, according to Castello.
The actress was represented by Atty. Ivy Cabatingan, an associate of Claudine's lawyer in the TPO case, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio.
Asked if she would have preferred her youngest sister to be present as she gave her testimony, Gretchen said, "Mas gusto ko nandito si Claudine, dahil gusto kong malaman niya kung gaano ko siya kamahal, at kung bakit ko 'to ginagawa."