Since August, ABC-5 has been known as TV5, which now offers 24/7 programming and operates a brand new transmitter. Management explained that ABC-5 had entered into a "major blocktime agreement" with MPB Primedia Inc., a Philippine corporation backed by Media Prima Berhad of Malaysia.
During the TV5 press launch, TV5 CEO Christopher Sy pointed out that "ABC-5 is still owned by Tonyboy Cojuangco. Prime Media has simply entered into a blocktime agreement but we do not have any equity in this station."
Little did everyone know that by that time, GMA-7 had already filed a complaint regarding the "unconstitutionality" of having Malaysian investors being involved in the "programming content and airtime sales" of TV5.
Mr. Dick Perez, GMA-7 vice-president for legal affairs, told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) that they already filed complaints last August but it took them some time to gather data regarding this matter.
Why did they file the suit just now—three months after TV5 was launched publicly?
"We only did what we had to do, which is to file a complaint in administrative agencies such as the National Telecommunications Commission and the National Bureau of Investigation. A few months later, we decided to elevate it to the courts," explains Mr. Perez in a phone interview with PEP earlier tonight, December 3.
Article XVI, Section 3, of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states: "The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens."
For this reason, GMA-7 is asking the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to nullify the blocktime agreement between MPB Primedia and TV5. They argue that this agreement violates the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which restricts ownership and management of mass media to Filipino citizens or corporations.
GMA-7 is also claiming a total of P11 million for damages, including attorney's fees and litigation expenses, from TV5, MPB, and MPB Primedia to compensate for the loss of revenues due to unfair competition.
PEP asked TV5's media relations head Pat Marcelo-Magbanua for their reaction to this development but she replied through a text message: "We haven't received a copy of the complaint so we're not yet in a position to make a comment. As soon as we have a reply, we will let you know."
Here is the statement from GMA-7 (published in full):
"GMA Network, Citynet, and ZOE Broadcasting have filed a lawsuit against ABC-5, Malaysian company Media Prima Berhad (MPB), and MPB Primedia for allegedly entering into an unlawful blocktime agreement.
"GMA Network is asking the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to nullify the blocktime agreement between MPB Primedia and ABC-5 as the agreement violated the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which restricts ownership and management of mass media to Filipino citizens or corporations.
"The said blocktime agreement allowed MPB Primedia to control and manage ABC-5's programming content and airtime sales.