MANILA The Philippines is in danger of slipping into recession, it has just recorded its first few cases of the new flu virus, but you wouldn't know it from reading the Manila newspapers or watching local television.
A scandal surrounding a celebrity doctor, known for providing cosmetic surgery to film stars and models, and his steamy affair with an upcoming actress has been all the rage, especially since a sex video of the two together surfaced on the Internet and on knock-off DVDs.
On Thursday, just hours after the government announced that an economic recession was looming, the two protagonists were summoned by the Senate and questioned in a public hearing, all covered live by television and radio.
"Everytime we saw each other, there was no conversation. It was all drugs and sex," said the 29-year-old doctor, Hayden Kho, adding the actress, Katrina Halili, influenced him to start experimenting with Ecstasy pills.
He admitted he had video-taped their affair, but said he did not know how it ended up on the Net.
Proceedings in the house were disrupted when an onlooker emptied a bottle of water over Kho's head. He was arrested and Kho continued his testimony after patting himself dry with a handkerchief.
Halili, 23, who sobbed repeatedly during the hearing, denied offering drugs to Kho, maintaining they had a doctor-patient relationship before getting intimate.
"I loved Hayden," she said wiping away tears. "I was young, so I was easily blinded. I am the victim here while our video is being viewed on a daily basis. I was abused on the video and I am still being abused in public."
Newspapers have been giving lurid details of the story on front pages for weeks, complete with bare-chested photographs of Kho. He was already a staple on the celebrity circuit because of his live-in relationship with Vicky Belo, the best known cosmetic surgeon in the Philippines.
Belo, said to be in her 50s, had a public break-up with Kho after reports of his affair with the actress surfaced earlier this year, but according to some reports they have reunited.
The congressional inquiry was called amid efforts by the legislature to strengthen laws against pornography and exploitation of women and children.