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Looking Back on Mel Tiangco's 16-Year Legal Battle With ABS-CBN

Mel Tiangco delivered the news of ABS-CBN's denial of franchise on July 10.
IMAGE TV Patrol / 24 Oras
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Mel Tiangco was assigned to report on 24 Oras on Friday, July 10, when the Committee on Legislative Franchises of the Lower House denied giving a new franchise to her former home network, ABS-CBN.

Some commented they noticed the broadcaster emphatically saying the words "Patay na sa Kamara ang renewal ng prangkisa ng ABS-CBN."

But this has been how Tiangco has enunciated her spiels, regardless if they relate to the issues facing her former home network, despite her bitter experience with ABS-CBN.

Suspended Without Pay

In 1995, she was suspended without pay because she appeared in a commercial for Tide laundry detergent. This was the main reason for her move to GMA Network in 1996. 

ABS-CBN reprimanded Tiangco for appearing in a Tide commercial, violating the internal policy of company that prohibits talents in its radio and news and current affairs from appearing in advertisements without written approval from ABS-CBN.

Tiangco is one of the first anchors of ABS-CBN's primetime news program that started in 1987. She was joined by Noli de Castro, Angelique Lazo, and the late Frankie Evangelista.

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GMA-7 is on ABS-CBN's lawsuit against Tiangco and its former Mel & Jay co-host Jay Sonza.

Mel & Jay is the former ABS-CBN show that aired from 1989 to 1996.

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The case lasted 16 years.

In March 2011, GMA-7 issued an official statement regarding the Supreme Court's dismissal of the cases filed by ABS-CBN against Mel, Jay, and GMA-7.

According to the Supreme Court, the cancellation of their agreement with ABS-CBN is valid.

GMA-7 also had nothing to do with the departure of Mel and Jay from ABS-CBN.

The statement added, "There was no evidence that GMA had enticed Mel and Jay to break away from ABS-CBN because when the two transferred to GMA, they have already rescinded their agreements with ABS-CBN.”

Mel and Jay used to host ABS-CBN's Sunday TV show Mel & Jay.

This rule in the media is enforced worldwide. Whether in print or in broadcast, a newscaster cannot sell a product. He or she is not allowed to use the credibility he or she gains as a journalist to earn as an endorser.

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Although it is not clear to the public, this is the source of ABS-CBN's suspension of Tiangco.

As punishment, Mel was suspended for three months without pay from her co-anchor position on TV Patrol and on the Mel & Jay radio program. But she stayed on the Sunday TV program Mel & Jay.

Jay later resigned from ABS-CBN, while Mel took indefinite leave and refused to tap for the program.

ABS-CBN Sued Mel and Jay

In 1996, ABS-CBN sued Mel and Jay "for specific performance, injunction and damages" in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court "to compel them to perform their 1994 agreements and not to appear in any other TV or radio station until 1997. "

It also sued GMA-7, which it later relocated.

On June 26, 1998, the QC RTC decided that Mel and Jay had a valid cause to cancel their contract with ABS-CBN, and GMA-7 had nothing to do with it.

ABS-CBN appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA), which upheld the RTC's decision.

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According to a decision issued by the CA on August 6, 2003, there is no evidence to prove that Mel violated ABS-CBN's circular when the news anchor appeared in the Tide commercial.

GMA-7 said in a statement: “The suspension by ABS-CBN of Mel without sufficient basis in law and evidence constitutes a breach of the contract by ABS-CBN which is substantial and grievous, and justifies the unilateral action by Mel Tiangco in resolving the contract.

"ABS-CBN had protested that Jay may not base his rescission on that of Mel, but the CA considered the fact that Jay is redundant without Mel, much like the proverbial bow and arrow."

ABS-CBN questioned the decision of the Court of Appeals and appealed it to the Supreme Court. 

But the Supreme Court dismissed ABS-CBN's appeal "for failure to sufficiently show any reversible error in the decision of the Court of Appeals." 

16-Year-Old Labor Dispute

ABS-CBN reported in March 2012 there was a partial financial settlement between Mel and ABS-CBN. This is related to the broadcaster's "P4.1-million, 16-year-old labor claim" against the broadcast giant.

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In the agreement approved by the Court of Appeals and signed by Tiangco, the broadcaster acknowledges that she has been paid in full by ABS-CBN.

This includes her salary during the months he was suspended, 13th month pay, travel allowance, a refund of contributions to the employees' stock option plan, and signing bonus.

Tiangco: Para Akong Ipis

In her February 18, 2013 interview for the drama anthology Magpakailanman, Tiangco said she had forgiven the ABS-CBN executives who, in her opinion, oppressed her.

Tiangco famously compared herself to a cockroach being repeatedly stomped on.

During the of her news program 24 Oras on July 10, some audiences even gave meaning to the brown dress Tiangco was wearing, alleging it was a symbol of herself as a cockroach. 

Kasi sobra ang panlalait sa akin. Sobra ang pagtapak sa akin. Dini-describe ko nga noon na, feeling ko, para akong ipis nun.

Alam niyo naman kung paano ba patayin ang ipis? Di ba, tinatapakan, tapos idiin pa para mapisa nang husto? Ganoon ang feeling ko nun.

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Napatawad ko na sila kahit hindi sila nagsu-sorry. Napatawad ko na sila. Bakit hindi ko sila papatawarin, ang ganda-ganda ng buhay ko dito sa GMA. Napakabait nila sa akin, napakarami kong fulfillment here at GMA,” said Tiangco.

Tiangco also had a message for the ABS-CBN executives who had a hand in her leaving the network.

“Sir, sana po nakakatulog kayo nang mahimbing. Ang buhay po ng tao ay hindi materyal lang ang mahalaga.

Sa buhay ng tao ay mahalaga na lilingon ka at marami ang nagsasabi sa ‘yo, ‘Napakabuti mong tao.

Sana po dumating ang panahon, sa inyo mangyari ‘yan.

This story originally appeared on Pep.phMinor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Jojo Gabinete for Pep.ph
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