Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Katrina Halili-Hayden Kho sex video scandal

I really thought that I was not going to comment on this issue; especially since those involved come from showbiz, an industry that is notorious for fabricating stories about its denizens just to keep them in the public eye. This whole “scandal” may very well be just another one of those well-crafted publicity stunts such that commenting on the whole thing might prove futile in the end. But as things stand, the story has now caught the nation’s undivided attention and is being used by various parties including several government agencies and politicians to earn them media mileage as well. Let us not forget that it is an election year after all. What I cannot personally stand are the moralistic and medical discourses being voiced out by these public personages, which are ultimately anti-sex and therefore anti-people, something that I feel we must all guard against.

How it all started

Not too long ago, rumors started circulating about the existence of a sex tape involving Katrina Halili and Hayden Kho, local actors here. What made the story juicy was the fact that Kho, a doctor himself, was then known to be in a May-December relationship with a prominent beauty expert more than 20 years his senior, Dr. Vicky Belo, a dermatologist who has built a small empire, the Belo Medical Group (BMG), by primarily selling plastic surgery and cosmetic enhancement services. Ironically, Kho and Halili were model-endorsers of BMG (as shown in the picture above) and the rumor resulted in a very public break-up between Kho and Belo although months later, Belo came out on TV saying that she and Kho were still very good friends and that she still loved him, although now on a more platonic level.

Fast-forward to the present. There is a Katrina Halili-Hayden Kho sex tape after all. It started circulating online first until some opportunist decided to convert it to CD/DVD format to sell it on the black market and earn off it. Now, Halili has sought the help of a women’s group and a senator and is considering filing charges against Kho while Kho has released a statement through his lawyer apologizing for the harm done by the sex tapes he made. He has also alleged that Halili supplied him drugs during their taped sexual encounters and thus was not in a stable state of mind. It turns out that he has also video-taped his sexual encounters with several other women including Belo. Only, he is claiming that the tapes were meant for his private viewing pleasure and that he never intended them released to the public. There are also two new angles to the story now. The first one purports that it was Kho’s best friend who released the sex tapes. Apparently, Kho, a serial womanizer, had sex with his best friend’s girl friend that in revenge, the best friend stole the videos off Kho’s laptop and made them public. The second angle claims that it is Belo who masterminded the release of the sex tapes herself. In collusion with Kho’s best friend, Belo gave the best friend access to Kho’s apartment by handing him the key so he could copy the entire content of Kho’s laptop including the videos contained in it.

The aftermath

In the wake of the scandal, the following chain of events took place:

a) Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. immediately delivered a privilege speech denouncing Kho and calling him several names like “maniac”, “pervert of the highest order” and even “crazy”. Revilla asked the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) to revoke Kho’s medical license and called on the Senate to immediately pass Senate Bill (SB) 12 also known as the Anti-Pornography Act of 2007, which he filed two years ago. Moreover, Revilla also asked to punish Internet Service Providers (ISP) that allow users to access “lewd” videos online following the Chinese or Middle Eastern model of Internet usage control.

b) Halili went to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) asking the agency to help investigate her case. She also held a press conference with the women’s group Gabriela Women’s Party which is arguing her case in sexual abuse and sexual violence terms.

c) Several government agencies announced their intent to hold independent probes: the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), which has the power to recommend the revocation of Kho’s license and expel him from its ranks, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) which wants to investigate the drug angle and the Philippine Senate, which will investigate the matter in aid of legislation.

d) Kho’s mother Irene Kho granted an interview on national television alleging that the scandal was orchestrated by talent manager, Lolit Solis. Mrs. Kho claimed that Solis and Revilla, an actor himself before he became a senator, are merely using her son in a publicity game that will most benefit them. Mrs. Kho repeated her son’s claim that Halili caused her son to be addicted to drugs.

A case of depravity and disease?

Yesterday, Thursday, was the beginning of the Senate inquiry on this matter and the news last night showed some dramatic footage of Kho being splashed water by an ex-cop present at the hearing. The former Makati police officer claimed he was just too enraged by Kho that he could not stop himself. Halili also made an appearance. She read a statement in Filipino while shedding copious tears. Both Kho and Halili were accompanied by their mothers. Pundits are saying that the Senate hearing is a farce, a pointless exercise. They predict that, in the end, nothing will come out of it.

One thing is for sure though, in the din and drama created by this whole “scandal” there was a palpable lack of affirmation of human sexuality, particularly the sexuality of the people involved. In spite of the fact that it is touted as a “sex” scandal, the sex part is the last thing people are talking about. Unsurprisingly, commentators have been using highly moralistic and medicalized language when talking about the issue. Revilla, in his privilege speech for example, portrayed Kho as someone sick for taping his sexual exploits without the knowledge of the women involved. Some psychologists have also lambasted Kho casting aspersions on his psychiatric health. Without knowing Kho personally and without having met him, they diagnosed him as someone with a disorder. After all, only someone with a mental problem could have done such a thing.

Women’s groups are also arguing the matter in terms of abuse and violence. In their statement on this issue, the National Commission of the Role of the Filipino Women (NCRFW) observed “While it is true that both the man and woman are publicly exposed in the video, we should be reminded that the man made the choice to be filmed, while the woman did not. In a still patriarchal culture like ours, women and their bodies are often made the subject of public scrutiny in any depiction of the sex act. The women are the ones who are made to feel ashamed, while men who appear in the same public depictions are affirmed, if not held in awe, for their supposed sexual prowess.” The NCRFW goes on to connect Kho’s video to pornography and makes this sweeping generalization:“Women in pornography are violated and dehumanized as they are mostly presented in scenes depicting degradation and humiliation. Pornographic materials depicting heterosexual sex do not just hurt the women directly involved in their production, but also all women and girls who are potential targets of aggression from the male consumers of pornography.” The Gabriela Women’s Party whose help Halili sought also echoes the same sentiments. A spokesperson for the women’s group in a TV interview said that what happened to Halili is sexual violence of the psychological kind. The release of the video showing her having sex with Kho without her consent will result in harming Halili emotionally.

Protecting people means affirming their sexuality

I can understand the outrage over this scandal on the issue of consent. Certainly, without Halili’s consent, Kho had no right to take the video. And nobody had the right to release it save for Kho or Halili themselves. But, one thing needs to be said here: there is nothing intrinsically wrong with taping one’s sexual activities alone or with others. And nobody is saying this without injecting their own brand of emotional attack on either Kho or Halili. Just think: if Halili consented to being taped and agreed to release said tape, would the video have merited all of the reactions above? I doubt it. It would have been a totally different scenario.

But now that the whole thing has ballooned out of proportion, we the Filipino public can no longer ignore the possible consequences of this issue. We must be particularly wary of
Senator Revilla’s insistence to pass SB 12. It is a violation of our freedom of expression and our right to access knowledge and information. We must fight this asinine attempt to institutionalize repression at all costs.

For sure, the Halili-Kho video is neither the first nor last of its kind. Sex video scandals have become all the rage in our country. Over the last year or so, we have heard of videos of people having consensual sex which later would magically fall in the hands of pirates, who reproduce and sell them without compunction. Most, if not all of the videos, were taken secretly without the knowledge usually of the woman involved. And herein lies the heart of the matter: What kind of nation are we that we have produced a generation of men who like shaming their women after sex? What kind of culture do we have that we allow people to use sex to punish others publicly?

If our education system had a sexuality education component that teaches people to strive for sexual health and sexual well-being, the proliferation of these sex videos might have been significantly reduced. For a comprehensive sexuality education would teach people to respect their bodies, their partners and the sex act itself. We should start teaching people that sex is a natural component of our humanity. It is one of our sources of pleasure. It fulfills us and enriches our lives in many ways. We must stop raising our children on the notion that sex is bad, dirty and evil. It is this idea that fuels the usage of sex to punish people, ruin their reputations and hurt their persons. We must put an end to the use of sex to have power over others and harm them. If Halili feels that she has been harmed, then she deserves justice. But let not this justice be served at the expense of the wonderful thing that is our sex and sexuality.


Steve said...

I was interested in learning more about what kind of work you do besides STRAP and this excellent blog.

I see you are a researcher and in education. I am looking for a research partner in Manila and was curious what kind of research you do..What is you educational background.


PinayTG said...

Hi Steve! I am currently working for a distance education institution working on a research project while doing tutorial work for them as well. I have a degree in secondary education from the University of the Philippines College of Education. I am also working on my own Master's thesis now to earn a degree from the same institution. What sort of research project will you be conducting in Manila?

Steve said...


I'd be happy to discuss my research project with you offline. E-mail me at the address in my initial post.


Steve said...


I responded to your request for info about my need for a researcher but you never replied.