On Coco Martin and Julia Montes: Age is NOT just a number aliwan fiesta banner aliwan fiesta banner


On Coco Martin and Julia Montes: Age is NOT just a number

Benny Kim

May 26, 2023

  • A 12-year relationship is a strong feat for any celebrity couple, considering the pressure from their fans and public opinion. However, the general public were not supportive of this relationship because of how it started. 

    Grooming is a term used to describe a manipulation tactic used by predators to shape their young victims into convincing and consenting to build a relationship with them, so they could exploit them. It is difficult to identify because it is a gradual process. They often start as a friendship to establish a solid connection between the predator and the victim. Because of this, it is inherent that there’s a power imbalance, being that grooming is initiated by an older figure to a vulnerable, young person. 

    For context, 12 years ago, Coco Martin was 29, and Julia Montes was 16. Basically, a fourth-year high school student and a working professional. It is very disturbing that influential public figures like them are in a relationship that started the way it did because they have supporters across all ages. What’s even more chilling is the fact that Martin narrated in a 2021 interview how he started making moves when Montes was just 13-years old.  

    “Nagtangka ako sa kaya. Nagtangkang magbola. Na-reject ako,” he said, while smiling ear to ear.

    When Julia was 13, she was riding the momentum of her rise to fame after being a series regular in Goin’ Bulilit, a show for child actors where they portray adults in comedic situations familiar to adults. This landed her on more projects in the following years, like Ligaw na Bulaklak, and I Love Betty La Fea to name a few. 

    Meanwhile, Coco was collecting awards for his movie features in the same year for his projects like Daybreak, Serbis, and Jay. These films were able to attain local and international recognition, and he won some of his prominent awards during these years. He was 28. 

    In 2011, promos for the TV series “Walang Hanggan” started to appear, with Coco and Julia as the main pairing. She was 16, and he was 30. If we’re to recall, according to them, this was when their relationship started.

    With the power imbalance and age gap between them, Coco Martin groomed Julia Montes.  

    In retrospect, Coco Martin shouldn’t be the only one accountable for his predatory behavior. People around them who are older and should’ve known better allowed for this to happen. This includes their management, friends, and most especially their family. 

    The bigger question here is, why is this normalized in the Philippines? 

    Aside from Coco Martin, there’s a bunch of influential people who are known groomers but seem to get away with it because people think it’s their business anyway. But how about their victims? 

    In a now deleted series of tweets, the controversial director, Daryl Yap, admitted to being a pedophile by having a whopping 7-year relationship with a minor. He seems to be unfazed while declaring to the internet his legal offenses either. Disgusting is an understatement to describe his doings. 

    Despite this, he continues to produce content and is still adored by the masses for his ‘unique take’ in directing and making movies. 

    In 2020, the former Thomasian lady spiker EJ Laure revealed her relationship with the former Goin’ Bulilit star Bugoy Carino, who had just turned 18 at that time. Together with this announcement was their introduction to their 2-year old daughter, Scarlet. 

    It’s an unfortunate sight to witness how Bugoy continues to defend EJ despite being conditioned that he is being the bigger person for taking responsibility for what he has right now. He was just a child when he had Scarlet. It is very telling as well how they waited for Carino to turn 18 until they were able to tell the world about their on-going relationship.

    The ‘Anak’ hitmaker, Freddie Aguilar married a 16-year old in 2013 to ‘end the hate’ with their relationship. He shared that they originally planned to marry when she turns 18, but decided to expedite it to prove to everyone that their love was true. The minor also reaffirmed that he loves the 60-year old, that she married him not for the fame and money. 

    In all of these situations, where are the people that should know better? Moreover, why aren’t they being penalized for abusing children? 

    Based on a country report on the Philippines, we do not have enough resources to protect children from said abuses, especially ones that are happening on the internet, which are usually instigated by the family members for monetary gains. To address this, Sen. Risa Hontiveros authored and sponsored the Republic Act of 11930 or Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children to give teeth to the existing law protecting our children. Unfortunately, this lapsed into law last July 30, 2022. 

    People say that this age of political correctness is pretentious and tiring. When it can be true, it is also the age of awareness and sensitivity, which is why topics like this are finally being talked about more, as it should be. 

    It is a good time to be a pakielamero and listen to victims of sexual abuse, and learn how we can contribute on eradicating it. By doing this, the silent victims can come out and tell their stories to the world, and inspire others to do the same. These people shouldn’t feel the fear of being downplayed just because they didn’t share it when it happened. We should empower them to expose these abusers. 

    Normalizing these behaviors by not having a discussion about it only benefits the offenders, and we’re all accountable for combating this problem. Seeking for a “mature” figure in our lives usually stems from the fact that we don’t have it at home. Old age doesn’t equate to maturity. 

    While abuse is heavily implied to be on the internet, TV stations should also be heavily accountable for the perpetuation. The constant portrayal of young and old pairing on TV gives the impression that it’s perfectly normal to engage in such a relationship. Although, it is important to note that it is not inherently abuse if the age gap is wide when the concerned people are of legal age and consented to the relationship. 

    As Filipinos, we should rethink our sexualization of young children and why we allow it to happen. In FHM’s 2012 list of Philippines’ Sexiest Women, Julia Montes was included, who was 17 at that time.


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