Mel Tiangco Loses Her Legal Battle with ABS-CBN After Over Two Decades
The Supreme Court Third Division, through a decision penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda, has junked the appeal of newscaster Mel Tiangco’s illegal dismissal and illegal suspension case against ABS-CBN over her appearance in a TV commercial in 1995.
The ruling was dated December 6, 2021 but was only released to the public on June 2, 2022.
What Went Before: Suspended Without Pay
In 1995, Tiangco was suspended without pay by her then-home network ABS-CBN because she appeared in a commercial for Tide laundry detergent. This was the main reason for the newscaster's move to GMA Network in 1996.
ABS-CBN reprimanded Tiangco for appearing in a Tide commercial, violating the internal policy of the company, which 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, which premiered in 1987. She was joined by Noli de Castro, Angelique Lazo, and the late Frankie Evangelista.
The Mel & Jay Issue
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. 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 Tiangco, Sonza, and GMA-7. Tiangco and Sonza used to host ABS-CBN's Sunday TV show Mel & Jay.
According to the Supreme Court, the cancellation of their agreement with ABS-CBN is valid and GMA-7 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that GMA had enticed Mel and Jay to break away from ABS-CBN because when the two transferred to GMA, they have already rescinded their agreements with ABS-CBN.”
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.
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 tape for the program.
ABS-CBN Sued Mel Tiangco and Jay Sonza
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. "
The Kapamilya Network also sued GMA-7.
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.
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.
“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," GMA said in a statement in 1998.
"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."