MANILA, June 28 -- The soap operatic world of Philippine cinema was plunged deeper into scandal Tuesday as charges were filed against the country's 1993 Miss World contestant and other alleged participants in a scheme to fraudulently award the top two prizes at the Manila Film Festival to the wrong actors.
With the country gripped by the real life melodrama, beauty queen- turned-actress Ruffa Gutierrez and six others were charged with fraud and obstruction of justice for allegedly orchestrating a plan to fix the winners in the best actor and actress categories.
'In this city, crime does not pay,' Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim told reporters during the reading of charges at City Hall. 'Nobody, no matter what his position in society is, is above the law. They have to face the consequences of their acts.'
The scandal has had all the ingredients of a typical Filipino movie, replete with histrionics, near fist fights, death threats and personal and professional hostilities.
Lim, dubbed 'Dirty Harry' during his term as chief of the National Bureau of Investigation, ordered a probe Wednesday night into the mushrooming fiasco after the presentors wrongfully read the names of Gutierrez and her film co-star Gabby Concepcion as winners of this year's awards.
'Some of the presentors maliciously and fraudulently misread the names of the actual winners,' said Vice-Mayor Lito Atienza, who headed a fact finding panel that investigated the scandal.
Festival judges had unanimously voted for Aiko Melendez as best actress and Edu Manzano as best actor. But the award presentors, who included the Miss Universe candidate from Mauritius Viveka Babajee, announced the names of Gutierrez and Concepcion instead.
Babajee, a house guest of the Gutierrez family before she fled to Hong Kong, was charged along with Concepcion, actress Nanette Medved, manager Lolit Solis and Gutierrez' brother Rocky and mother Annabelle Rama.
Each defendant faces a maximum of 12 years in prison for each charge if convicted.
Gutierrez, who could lose the 2nd runner-up crown she won in last November's Miss World beauty contest, starred as a battered wife in 'Loretta,' a movie inspired by the case of American Lorena Bobbit who in a fit of rage cut off her abusive husband's penis last year.
Prior to winning her appearance in Miss World, Gutierrez and other actresses were accused by Sen. Ernesto Maceda of engaging in high-priced