ABS-CBN's star witness on the alleged ratings anomaly in Bacolod bravely showed his face to the camera and agreed to be interviewed without the silhouette and voice distortion that marked his first video appearance last December 14, 2007.
Sticking to his initial testimony and statement submitted to the court, Mark Dumago remains resolute that there was indeed an irregularity in the data produced by AGB Nielsen Media Research Philippines in its television ratings survey in Bacolod.
TAPPED TO CHEAT. The P63-million civil case filed by ABS-CBN against the media research firm was dismissed by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court last January 7, by order of Presiding Judge Samuel Gaerlan. The court declared that the case was "prematurely filed," meaning that the Kapamilya network hastily called for a legal action against AGB Nielsen without granting the latter reasonable time to conduct a probe to verify the reports of "bribing" and "cheating" in the panel households.
Reacting to the court's decision as well as to the naysayers, Mark Dumago said to ABS-CBN News: "Naiinis kasi sinasabi nilang nagsisinungaling daw kami. Hindi, totoo 'yong sinasabi namin dito kaya nga ito, lumantad na nga ako."
According to Dumago's testimony, he and other participants were tasked by a GMA-7 official to locate and eventually bribe the participating households included in the survey. Armed with a bait of P500 or grocery items to be given monthly, they make an offer to the household to switch the TV dial in favor of GMA-7 programs.
The Kapuso network vehemently denied the allegation, citing that they have no employee in their list that matches the name of the informant.
"Hindi nga kami empleyado ng GMA pero nagtrabaho kami para sa GMA," stressed Dumago.
Owing to the delicate nature of the undertaking, Dumago added that GMA wisely played its cards just in case the operation backfires—and that includes disowning the same personnel they hired to carry out the job.
"Dati pa alam naman namin na idi-deny kami ng GMA ‘pag nabuko ‘yong operation namin kasi trabaho naman sa GMA confidential, e," he said.
NOT ISOLATED CASE. The households that are approached reportedly accept the offer out of poverty. Mark Dumago said that aside from giving the monthly grocery items and cash agreement, they demand utmost secrecy.
"Sabi naman, ‘Manang, ‘wag kang mag-alala. Wag mong isumbong. ‘Pag isumbong mo ‘yan sa AGB mawawalan ka.' Papanoorin lang 'yong programa ng GMA, ganyan lang tapos buwan-buwan may tatanggapin sila na P500 'tsaka groceries."
Despite the tempting offer, not all metered households give in because of station loyalty, said Dumago. "Kasi bakit daw binibili naman 'yong karapatan nila. Minsan nagagalit din 'yong may-ari ng mga bahay, e, kasi 'yong iba die- hard sa ABS-CBN," he said.
Dumago also pointed out that the operation is not limited to Bacolod. Other areas were already infiltrated with the same "bribe to switch" practice being implemented to alter the rating figures, he said.
"Davao, Cebu, Iloilo," Dumago enumerated, "meron ding ibang area, city, na ginagawa ito."
He claimed that even some AGB Nielsen personnel are said to be accomplices in the anomaly.
"Katulad dun sa Iloilo, wala daw silang problema kasi meron silang insider na tauhan ng AGB mismo," said Dumago. "Yong insider ang nagbibigay ng impormasyon sa kanila kung saan mas madali nilang mahanap 'yong meters sa bahay kasi may contact [na] sa loob."