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The Gucci Gang controversy is a series of events that involved an Australian blogger Brian Gorrell who published his accusation against his former boyfriend—identified as DJ Montano—of swindling him of money totaling US$70,000.[1][2][3] Gorrell's blog, which was first published on 4 March 2008, has also accused Montano's well-to-do friends, whom he tagged as "Gucci Gang", of attempting to cover up the deed and striking back at him.[4] The blog has since become a major gossip topic in Philippines' capital city Manila, exposing its high-society youths' alleged freeloading lifestyle and addiction to cocaine.[5][6] It has also tested Philippine and Australian online libel laws, and raised questions about the extent of freedom of speech in blogging.[7][8][9]

Developments

ChikaTime

The accusation first appeared on a high-society gossip blog ChikaTime.com on 8 February 2008, when an informant, who identified himself as "BG", claimed that Montano has taken US$40,000 that was supposed to be as an investment for a Portuguese restaurant. The informer added that he ended the relationship because he found out that Montano cheated on him.[10]

Gorrell's blog published

After he was forced to flee the Philippines to Australia, Gorrell (a landscape designer) published his blog on 4 March 2008, using Blogger.com. He claimed that he had been sending money to Montano as a "silent investment" for a restaurant called Bonza in Makati City as well as a tour booking company in Boracay. He soon realized that the money was used to pay Montano's own debt and that the companies were non-existent.[8][11] Gorrell then narrated that he confronted Montano about the money at a hotel room in Makati, which resulted in a public altercation.[12] He said he was charged with assault through the help of the Montano's friends, but was later dismissed.[1] The blogger then posted entries involving the "Gucci Gang"—consisting of prominent young Manila socialites who are close to Montano including scions of political families and media personalities—accusing them of infidelity, cocaine abuse, cover-up, and crassness.[6][13] Among those mentioned in the blog include lifestyle columnist and socialite Celine Lopez, who is described as the "Paris Hilton of Asia".[3]

He stated that the blog was put up when he was told by Philippine lawyers that the soonest Gorrell could recover the money, totaling to US$70,000, is three years. The blogger also wrote that it also aimed to shame Montano (as well as the Gucci Gang) into paying him back, and would erase the blog from the Internet once the debt is paid.[5] Gorrell said he plans to use the money as treatment for his HIV.[12] On 14 March 2008, the blog has received 270,000 visits, amounting to 36,600 visits a day and each lasting an average of 52 minutes. Gorrell wrote that he has received over 3,000 e-mails since the blog opened, apart from hundreds of comments.[5] The blog has since been visited over 2 million times.[3]

Legal action

Gorrell claimed that the Gucci Gang chose to attack him instead of paying the debt. On 11 March 2008, the blogger stated in his site that officials from the Philippine consulate in Sydney and Australian Federal Police took away his computer and questioned him.[5] He wrote that he challenged the officials to check the blog's contents for accuracy.[14] Montano and his family are exploring possible legal actions against Gorrell.[5] He has also contacted the entertainment section staff of Philippine Daily Inquirer, which first published an article about the blog, saying "no comment" and that he would only issue an official statement if Gorrell filed a case "in the proper forum".[12][15] Gorrell said in an interview that he was not inclined to do so as of the moment, stating that he has consulted three lawyers in Manila and all of them declined to take the case, citing conflict of interest. He also stated that he does not consider taking the case to the Philippines, saying that "the thought of spending years within the Philippine court system is not even an option for (him)".[12]

Meanwhile, Lopez's lawyer sent a letter to Gorrell, which states that "(she) is no longer in communication with Montano and in as much as she wants to help (him) with (his) problem with the latter, (she) does not have the capacity to assist (him) as she was not privy to the transaction which only (him) and Montano can properly resolve". The letter also pointed out that Lopez and her friend Marco Antonio have been persistent in asking Montano to pay back the debt, but the latter would only provide "vague answers and a series of denials".[16] Both lawyers of Montano and Lopez demanded that the blog be shut down, but no other legal actions has been done. Montano's representative claimed that Gorrell does not have a legal case because the blogger has yet to sue Montano, while Lopez's lawyer could not file a lawsuit against Gorrell because he is in another country.[3]

Gorell's blog shut-down and reopening

Gorrell closed his blog on 12 March 2008, after several readers commented on the site telling him to stop the "verbal violence" especially those who were not involved.[5] The blogger, however, kept his first post published.[17] He added that the blog "became bigger than (him)". Gorrell also greeted the Gucci Gang to have fun at their "anti-Brian blog" party that same night.[4] However, the blog re-opened a day later with a series of new posts, although the "Comments" section remained disabled. He insisted that he has not been paid.[5] On 17 March 2008, Gorrell published in his blog a receipt from Western Union money transfer as proof that he was sending money to Montano. He added that it was one of ten such documents in his possession.[12]

Montano speaks out

Montano and his family explained their side of the controversy to broadcaster Korina Sanchez on 11 April 2008, in Korina Today on ABS-CBN News Channel. The socialite denied all of Gorrell's claims, adding that he has been pressured by strangers to "pay up". Montano's parents said in the interview that they can pay the money if they have to, but it was "a matter of principle" not to. They are determined to file a libel case against Gorrell, whether in the Philippines or Australia.[18]

Gossip and discussion topic

The blog and the people mentioned in it have become a major topic of gossip in Manila, and has also gotten people in local showbiz industry hooked. The local entertainment media first got hold of the blog on 11 March 2008, when Philippine Daily Inquirer published an article about it. The newspaper wrote that the blog (unnamed at that time, but provided keywords for googling) "made Gossip Girl looked like a Disney musical".[19] Talks reaching at its peak when the blog abruptly closed. It was also talked about during the final-episode taping of MariMar Philippine remake. Suggestions of a movie version was raised from comments in the blog, with the likes of character actress Bella Flores, small-sized celebrity Mahal, and entertainment columnist Jobert Sucaldito included in the cast, while TV host and comedian Ogie Diaz would portray the Montano's role.[4] Diaz was delighted of the suggestion, but questioned who would dare invest in such production. Meanwhile, critics claimed that the series of events could be a gimmick to promote one of the Gucci Gang's nightclubs, which said to have held an "anti-Brian blog" party. Witnesses at the party commented on Brian's blog, saying that the club was a "drug den" with one of its high-profile owners as a "drug dealer".[12][13] Gorrell's blog was also discussed in Media in Focus, a program in ABS-CBN News Channel on 27 March 2008. It was the first time the issue was brought up to mainstream television.[20]

Legal and social issues

The blog raised questions about the extent of Philippine and Australian libel laws, with jurisdiction being the key issue. In the Philippines, a person may be accused of libel in any place reached by the publication where the alleged libel appeared. However, such law suffers from loopholes if the publication in question appears wherever Internet access is available. Laws of both countries differ on what statement can be defined as libelous. While Australian libel laws give greater weight to the veracity of the statements, its counterpart in the Philippines defines anything written with "malice afterthought" as libelous. This means that a simple mention of a name in a "malicious" article, no matter how true it is, can be cited for libel in the Philippines.[7] University of the Philippines law professor JJ Disini commented during Media in Focus that the statements posted in the blog are "libelous," explaining that although some of the characters in Gorrell's blog are famous, the libelous statements have nothing to do with what they are famous for. Disini further added that those characters were treated unfairly in the blog, and that they are being used as pawns for Gorrell to get his money back. Law experts in the program were unanimous in their conclusion that Gorrell should go back to the Philippines and file charges against Montano. And in turn, Montano can file libel charges against Gorrell. However, the blogger wrote in his site that he will not return to the Philippines, as he has "no intention of spending the next three years of (his) life battling a liar or thief in your court system in Manila." Other legal options include having Gorrell extradited or file a libel case in Australia, which the program's panelists say as both "tedious" and "expensive."[8]

The blog has also brought out issues of race, gender, and media responsibility particularly on how modern platforms and technological innovations have changed the landscape of journalism. Other vital issues such as freedom of the press and right to privacy were also discussed in the blog's comments section.[15] Meanwhile, Bong Austero of Manila Standard Today stated that the issue has raised the need for "a more realistic appraisal of the authentic social value that these so-called 'socialites' provide", that there is "something not right in a setup where wealth and excessive lifestyles are flaunted and regularly splashed across the pages of newspapers as if they are the most natural things in the world while the majority (of Filipinos) live below the poverty line".[21] Hong Kong-based Filipino socialite and author Kitty Go sided on Gorrell, saying that no one should prevent him from expressing his concerns. She also added that "these ills that Brian (revealed)... has been happening since the Spanish times, and it still happens now."[22]

Some experts on media and journalism, meanwhile, contend that Gorrell's blog was not fit to print in the news pages of newspapers and that it had raised issues in lifestyle journalism in the Philippines.[23] Some media professionals think that the mainstream press, nevertheless, handled the story appropriately.[24]

Randy Dellosa, resident psychologist of the Pinoy Big Brother series, weighed in on the Philippine entertainment industry's fascination with Gorrell's blog. According to Dellosa, the local show biz people are experiencing "scandal fatigue" within their own industry and that they "secretly aspire to become part of high society."[20]

Criticisms on freedom of speech in blogging

Self-proclaimed "eventologist" Tim Yap, who has been mentioned in the blog, indirectly responded to the gossip on his weekly Philippine Star column, saying: "Freedom of speech is one thing, abuse of speech is another."[25] Meanwhile, lifestyle columnist Malu Fernandez, herself a victim of a blog attack in 2007, questioned the extent of freedom of speech applied in blogging, stating the blog about the Gucci Gang as an example. She wrote that journalists like her do not hide behind an anonymous blog name, while lambasting those who "place vicious comments and slanderous statements in blogs yet sign their names as 'anonymous'", calling the act as "plain cowardice".[9] Austero wrote in his column at Manila Standard Today that "the latest scandal validates the emerging power of blogging as medium of our times and consequently and necessarily opens, once again, discussion on the ethics of blogging". He also added that the Filipinos' "collective tolerance for dirt and sleaze has breached new levels".[21]

Footnotes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Brian Gorrell (4 March 2008). DJ Montano: Delfin Justiniano Ocampo Montano II. Blogger.com. Retrieved on 16 March 2008.
  2. Gabinete, Jojo (15 March 2008). "Part of "Dingdong, natawa sa ‘The Dingdong Dantes Sex Scandal’!". Abante. Archived from the original on 17 March 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080317142342/http://www.abante.com.ph/issue/mar1508/ent_jg.htm. Retrieved 19 March 2008.  (Tagalog
    This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Gucci Gang controversy, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    Author(s): Rich Farmbrough Search for "Gucci Gang controversy" on Google
    View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Gucci Gang controversy"
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    )
    [[Category:Articles with Tagalog
    This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Gucci Gang controversy, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    Author(s): Rich Farmbrough Search for "Gucci Gang controversy" on Google
    View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Gucci Gang controversy"
    Wikipedia-logo-v2
    language external links]]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Hornery, Andrew (5 April 2008). "Aussie blog has Philippine 'Gucci gang' all in a lather". Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/news/people/aussie-blog-has-philippine-gucci-gang-all-in-a-lather/2008/04/04/1207249452813.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap2. Retrieved 8 April 2008. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Inquirer Entertainment (13 March 2008). "Brian blogspot, the movie". Philippine Daily Inquirer. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20080313-124523/Brian-blogspot-the-movie. Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Zhou, Zhiyai (16 March 2008). "Attack of the killer blog". Philippine Daily Inquirer. p. E1. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/lifestyle/lifestyle/view/20080316-124981/Attack-of-the-killer-blog. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Cadiz, Gibbs (16 March 2008). "And now, a word from a 'jologs'". Philippine Daily Inquirer. p. E2. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/lifestyle/lifestyle/view/20080316-124986/And-now-a-word-from-a-jologs. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Inquirer Lifestyle (16 March 2008). "Blog’s shame campaign raises legal issues". Philippine Daily Inquirer. p. E1. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/lifestyle/lifestyle/view/20080316-124982/Blogs-shame-campaign-raises-legal-issues. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Fonbuena, Carmela (28 March 2008). "Online libel: Aussie blogger’s victims are helpless". ABS-CBN News Online. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=113329. Retrieved 31 March 2008. [dead link]
  9. 9.0 9.1 Fernandez, Malu (10 March 2008). "The problem with blogging...". Manila Standard Today. http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=goodLife2_mar10_2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  10. ChikaTime.com (8 February 2008). Ex-boyfriend: "DJ Montano Owes Me $40,000". Retrieved on 16 February 2008.
  11. Grande, Gigi (1 April 2008). "Australyanong ibinulgar sa blog ang panloloko umano sa kanya ng Pinoy BF". TV Patrol World. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0edgNHc_sY. Retrieved 4 March 2008.  (Tagalog
    This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Gucci Gang controversy, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    Author(s): Rich Farmbrough Search for "Gucci Gang controversy" on Google
    View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Gucci Gang controversy"
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    )
    [[Category:Articles with Tagalog
    This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Gucci Gang controversy, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    Author(s): Rich Farmbrough Search for "Gucci Gang controversy" on Google
    View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Gucci Gang controversy"
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    language external links]]
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 San Diego, Bayani Jr (18 March 2008). "Move over, Mr. Ripley". Philippine Daily Inquirer. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20080318-125556/Move-over-Mr-Ripley. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Inquirer Entertainment (16 March 2008). "Brian blogspot: the plot thickens". Philippine Daily Inquirer. p. H6. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20080313-124523/Brian-blogspot-the-movie. 
  14. Brian Gorrell (11 March 2008). Fighting the GOOD fight... regardless. Blogger.com. Retrieved on 16 March 2008.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Inquirer Entertainment (17 March 2008). "Brian steps out of his blog". Philippine Daily Inquirer. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20080317-125117/Brian-steps-out-of-his-blog-. Retrieved 18 March 2008. 
  16. Agustin, Victor (17 March 2008). "Grumpy old men, angry old maids". Manila Standard Today. http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=business6_mar17_2008. Retrieved 18 March 2008. 
  17. Agustin, Victor (14 March 2008). "Hell hath no fury". Manila Standard Today. http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=business5_mar14_2008. Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  18. Sanchez, Korina (11 April 2008). "Pinoy socialite na inatake sa sikat na blog, nagsalita na". TV Patrol World. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWaXuLpOoDc. Retrieved 12 April 2008.  (Tagalog
    This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Gucci Gang controversy, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    Author(s): Rich Farmbrough Search for "Gucci Gang controversy" on Google
    View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Gucci Gang controversy"
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    [[Category:Articles with Tagalog
    This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Gucci Gang controversy, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    Author(s): Rich Farmbrough Search for "Gucci Gang controversy" on Google
    View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Gucci Gang controversy"
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  19. Inquirer Entertainment (11 March 2008). "Naming names: Online 'telenovela' indicts RP 'high' society". Philippine Daily Inquirer. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20080311-124118/Naming-names-Online-telenovela-indicts-RP-high-society. Retrieved 16 March 2008. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 San Diego, Bayani Jr (27 March 2008). "Reality TV, virtual reality". Philippine Daily Inquirer. http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20080327-126809/Reality-TV-virtual-reality. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Austero, Bong (17 March 2008). "Red faces and lurid accusations". Manila Standard Today. http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=bongAustero_mar17_2008. Retrieved 18 March 2008. 
  22. Trinidad, Nadia (3 April 2008). "Pinay socialite, suportado ang mga pagbubunyag ni Brian Gorrell". TV Patrol World. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_-uKZ4gkZ8. Retrieved 12 April 2008.  (Tagalog
    This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Gucci Gang controversy, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    Author(s): Rich Farmbrough Search for "Gucci Gang controversy" on Google
    View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Gucci Gang controversy"
    Wikipedia-logo-v2
    )
    [[Category:Articles with Tagalog
    This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Gucci Gang controversy, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
    Author(s): Rich Farmbrough Search for "Gucci Gang controversy" on Google
    View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Gucci Gang controversy"
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  23. Luis Teodoro, "Why Brian Gorrell Story Is Not Fit to Print"
  24. PinoyPress, "Why the Philippine Press Is Too Careful in Handling Brian Gorrell Case"
  25. Yap, Tim (15 March 2008). "You want more internet gossip?". Philippine Star SUPREME. Archived from the original on 22 March 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080322005442/http://supreme.ph/2008/03/15/you-want-more-internet-gossip/. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 

External links

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