ABS-CBN loses appeal to GMA

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The Court of Appeals has rejected the petition of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. seeking the dismissal of the complaint for breach of contract filed by GMA Network Inc. against it and host Rosanna Roces.

In a 13-page decision, the 12th Division through Associate Justice Magdangal de Leon affirmed the ruling of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 217, denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss the suit of GMA because of an existing cause of action against ABS-CBN.

The appellate court noted that the contractual relations between GMA and Roces (Jennifer Molina in real life) had not been mutually terminated, thus, ABS-CBN into a subsisting talent agreement.

It noted that such interference resulted when petitioner hired the services of the actress as host of a television program with the same format and style as GMA’s long-running showbiz talk show, Startalk.

“It is a basic postulate that every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith. The same rule applies even in cases of business competition, for if it were otherwise, then there would be chaos and anarchy in society,” the CA stressed.

GMA’s cause of action stemmed from Roces’ soundbytes that she would be retiring, but a few days later, ABS-CBN started plugging her appearance in its television programs.

Sometime March 2003, GMA contracted the services of Roces as its performing artist/main host of Startalk. As agreed, she would be paid P102,083.33 for talent fee plus a hosting stipend of P5,000 in cash per episode from March 29, 2004 to March 27, 2005.

On July 18, 2004, Roces announced in the GMA program “S-Files” that she was quitting show business allegedly to spend more time with her family.

ABS-CBN started airing plugs on her appearance in its Saturday afternoon program, “Ek Channel,” prompting GMA to inform the network about its subsisting contract with the actress.

Under the contract, the CA notes, talent shall not appear or perform on any show which is aired during the same time slot scheduled for the program Startalk, or in any program with the same format or in any broadcast or cable station or channel without GMA’s prior consent.

Despite receipt of said letter dated Dec. 9, 2004 and in violation of the contract, ABS-CBN signed on Roces as co-host of its talk show “The Buzz” on Dec. 12, 2004, prompting GMA to file a civil suit before the Quezon City RTC.

In answer to the complaint, the ABS-CBN claimed there was no cause of action because it engaged Roces’ services only after she announced her retirement from GMA’s S-Files.

GMA, stressed ABS-CBN, obviously accepted and did not object to the retirement of Roces even before the expiration of contract, otherwise, her announcement would not have been allowed for airing on its own television program.

On Sept. 13, 2005, the trial court denied ABS-CBN’s motion to dismiss the breach of contract suit, prompting the petitioner to raise the case to the appeals court.