MANILA, Philippines – A Quezon City court has awarded P1.1 million in damages to Esabella Cabrera, a Mutya ng Pilipinas beauty pageant winner who was stripped of her title 16 years ago.
Assisting Judge Ma. Rita Sarabia of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s Branch 221 ordered the Miss Asia Pacific Quest Inc , organizer of the pageant, and its former president Leandro Enriquez; Carousel Productions Inc and its former president Ramon Monzon; Lorraine Schuck as well as 1997 Mutya ng Pilipinas first runner-up Sheryll Moraga, to pay the former beauty queen moral and civil damages.
Moraga was included among those directed to indemnify Cabrera as she received the prizes due the deposed crown holder.
Sarabia, in her 14-page decision, found that Cabrera was dethroned without due process and ruled in her favor on the suit she filed 16 years ago for damages.
Based on court records, Cabrera was crowned 1997 Mutya ng Pilipinas at the Folk Arts Theater on May 3, 1997 and was awarded over P400,000 worth of prizes as well as offers of commercial modeling contracts for two cosmetics and beauty product companies.
Cabrera, who was then a minor, said that she went back to her hometown in Cavite the day after the pageant and was not able to return to the hotel where she and other winners were billeted until May 6 because of mental and physical fatigue.
She claimed she had duly explained to and informed the pageant secretariat and Schuck about the delay in her return but Schuck told her that she should resign if she was unable to meet the demands of her duties and obligations as the reigning Mutya ng Pilipinas.
Even then Cabrera proceeded to discharge her functions as the pageant winner and joined her entourage for a Makati City event organized by Carousel Productions. But when she returned to the hotel in the evening, Schuck informed her that the father of Cabrera’s boyfriend had called and told her that the couple was getting married soon and the beauty title would just be wasted on Cabrera.
Cabrera said that although she denied the claim, Shuck demanded her resignation, accusing her of being pregnant and alleging that she would soon be getting married.
Cabrera, who said that as a minor she felt she was in no position to disobey the organizers’ instructions, said she was deceived by Monzon and Schuck into giving up her crown through a resignation letter.
Schuck, she said, had told her that the letter would serve only as a guarantee should she be unable to comply with her duties. Only then would it be submitted to the Miss Asia Pacific Quest Inc. president and board of directors for their deliberation.
Several weeks after, she learned from the newspapers that she had already been dethroned and replaced by the first runner-up. Her demands for an explanation and for her reinstatement were not answered by the organizers, causing her “embarrassment, sleepless nights, serious anxiety and a besmirched reputation.”
For their part, the organizers insisted that the resignation letter had been voluntarily submitted and denied that Cabrera had been tricked into giving up her crown.
But Sarabia ruled, “This Court is not persuaded with defendants’ claims and defenses. The important matter on the ‘resignation’ of the plaintiff was not brought for agenda, discussion and other official resolution of the Board of Directors of the concerned corporate entity.”
She said the organizers never afforded Cabrera due process before she was stripped of her crown and title, thus, the former beauty queen was entitled to moral and civil damages.