Sep 10, 2007

Court of Appeals dismisses ABS-CBN's plea to stop GMA Network's breach of contract suit

The Court of Appeals upholds GMA-7's breach of contract suit by junking ABS-CBN's plea to dismiss the case against the Lopez-owned network and former talent Rosanna Roces.
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In a 13-page decision penned by Associate Justice Magdangal de Leon, the CA 12th Division affirmed the ruling of the Quezon City regional trial court branch 217, which likewise denied petitioner’s motion to dismiss GMA’s complaint on the ground that there is a cause of action against ABS-CBN fortortious or damaging interference.

“From the wordings of the impugned Orders, respondent court carefully studied GMA’s complaint, quoting the pertinent portions thereof which convinced the court that the elements of a cause of action are present," the CA ruled.

The CA pointed out that the contractual relations between GMA Network and Roces (or Jennifer Molina in real life) had not been mutually terminated, thus ABS-CBN interfered in the subsisting talent agreement signed between them.

Such interference resulted when petitioner engaged 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," said the CA.

The appellate court said GMA Network’s cause of action stemmed from Roces’ pronouncements that she would be retiring from showbusiness, yet a few days later, ABS-CBN started airing plugs announcing her appearance on its television programs, despite the private respondent’s letters sent to petitioner apprising it of the talent agreement with Roces.

Court records showed that sometime in March 2003, GMA Network entered into a talent agreement with Roces as its performing artist/main host of the television program Startalk. Under the terms and conditions, Roces will receive a talent fee of P102,083.33 and cash stipend of P5,000 per episode as host the program beginning March 29, 2004 up to March 27, 2005.

During the regime of the agreement, or on July 18, 2004, Roces announced on the GMA Network program S-Files that she was retiring from show business allegedly due to her desire to spend more time with her family.

A few days after Roces announced her retirement, ABS-CBN started airing program plugs announcing her appearance on its Saturday afternoon program, “Ek Channel," prompting GMA Network to inform the network about its subsisting contract with the actress.

Under the contract, 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 the prior consent of GMA Network.

Despite receipt of the letter dated December 9, 2004 and in violation of the contract, ABS-CBN still engaged Roces’ services as co-host of the showbiz talk show program “The Buzz" on December 12, 2004, prompting GMA Network to file a civil suit before the Quezon RTC.

ABS-CBN, in answer to the civil complaint, claimed there was no state of action because it only engaged Roces’ services after the latter announced her retirement from plaintiff’s own TV program S-Files.

ABS-CBN said that GMA Network obviously accepted and did not object to the retirement of Roces even before the expiration of contract, otherwise, plaintiff would not have allowed her to announce her retirement in its own TV program.

On September 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 CA.

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