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'BBE Toni' trends after 'PBB' host defends evicted housemate Russu Laurente

Toni Gonzaga, one of the hosts of Pinoy Big Brother Connect, urged the public to go easy on evicted housemate Russu Laurente, who once supported the shutdown of ABS-CBN, the media network that produces the reality show.

In an Instagram post after Laurente's eviction from the famed blue and yellow house on Sunday, January 3, Toni said "people [were] very quick to judge [Russu], call him names, and crucify him on social media...without realizing that at 19 years old, he doesn't know the gravity of words spoken." 

"He has learned his lesson and this will help him grow and mature in life. And now that he knows better, he will do better. May this also serve as a reminder for us to not define and label a person by the mistakes they've committed but from how they rise up, rebuild, and become [the] better person they are really supposed to be," she said, using the hashtag #sundayrealization2021.

Russu, who hails from General Santos City, was kicked out of the house after getting the lowest percentage of votes at just 4.39%. A day before his eviction, Russu and another eviction nominee, Crismar Menchavez, admitted that they were in favor of the network shutdown.

Speaking to "Big Brother," Russu said he didn't know the "backstory" of the ABS-CBN shutdown and said it was only later on that he realized the impact of the closure on the network's talents and workers. He had told a fellow housemate that he was the only one in his family who was in favor of the ABS-CBN shutdown.

Russu continued to apologize for his previous stand after he was evicted from the Pinoy Big Brother house.

"I hugged the boy after the show and he kept apologizing. Forgiveness is a gift everyone deserves," added Toni.

ABS-CBN, the Philippines' biggest media corporation, went off free TV on May 5 after its franchise expired. Around two months later, lawmakers denied it a new franchise, forcing ABS-CBN to retrench thousands of its employees. ABS-CBN shows have since returned to free TV via A2Z channel, but its reach and earnings have been drastically reduced.

Up to Monday afternoon, January 4, "BBE Toni" was a trending topic on Twitter – a play on the keywords you need to type in to evict a housemate. The phrase was coined in reaction to Toni's Instagram post, with users reposting photos of the TV host posing with Duterte administration officials and politicians, including those who openly criticized the network and even supported its shutdown.

Toni has hosted Pinoy Big Brother, the Philippine franchise of the Dutch reality contest, since its premiere in 2005. In the show, housemates – people from all walks of life – are made to live together in the Pinoy Big Brother house close to the ABS-CBN compound, where they are cut off from the rest of the world. At least one housemate is evicted regularly until finals night, where a winner – determined through text and online voting – is declared.

The show has helped launched the careers of several big stars in Philippine entertainment. – Rappler.com