Mark Dumago, ABS-CBN's whistleblower on the alleged ratings fiasco in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, faced the press yesterday, January 15, at the 9501 restaurant in ABS-CBN, to reiterate his testimony submitted to the court December last year.
Looking composed in a light blue polo shirt under a jacket, submitted himself to questioning and once again pointed at GMA-7 as the group behind the alleged bribery in the metered households.
The 23-year old witness, who is currently under ABS-CBN's custody for security purposes, said that he is ready to face the consequences of his revelation both in court and in public forums.
He said that his decision to grant an interview with TV Patrol World last week and to come over to Manila to divulge the details of the said anomaly is his own way of laying all his cards on the table.
NO TANGIBLE EVIDENCE. Mark once again narrated that he—along with some of his friends—was recruited by a certain station official to carry out the task of locating and bribing some of the metered households in favor of GMA-7. Last April 2006, he met someone in Time Out Restaurant in Bacolod who asked him to survey what TV shows were being watched by local residents and which station had the highest ratings. Two months later, Mark said that he was given a new assignment—to locate households with installed AGB Nielsen TV meters.
In exchange for P500 and grocery items handed out monthly, Mark's group persuaded the metered households to switch their TV dial in favor of the Kapuso programs—consequently helping to raise the ratings of GMA-7 programs.
To make sure that the households were complying with the agreement, Mark and his team conducted surprise visits to check if the station being watched by the bribed households are indeed GMA-7 programs.
Mark and his team reportedly agreed to carry out the task for a monthly compensation of P6, 200 and P115 load allowance for their mobile phones.
The problem is—as Mark himself admitted—he doesn't have any identification card or any document bearing GMA-7's name.that would prove he was indeed involved in the said operation
"Pero ang pinipirmahan namin, may nakasulat na RGMA," he said, meaning the receipt that they signed when accepting their salary. "Ang RGMA po ang radio station nila doon sa amin, sa local."
Owing perhaps to the secrecy of the operation, Mark said that they were not given a copy of the receipt; they didn't mind at all since they only wanted to be paid for their services.
"Hindi naman namin alam na ganito yong mangyayari, hindi namin sinasadya," confessed Mark with a straight face.
WITNESS FOR FREE. Mark thwarted some people's speculation that he was paid by ABS-CBN to stand as a witness to justify their legal action against AGB Nielsen Media Research Philippines, as well as to smear GMA-7's name.
"Wala po," he quickly replied when probed if the Lopez-owned network paid him or promised anything in exchange for his testimony.
"Lumantad lang po ako kasi noong una gusto ko lang naman ‘yong hindi nakikita ‘yong mukha ko. Basta nagbigay lang ako ng impormasyon," confided Mark on his initial purpose.
"Tapos noong nanunood palagi kami ng TV, ‘yon yung mga sinasabi ng kabilang istasyon na nagsisinungaling daw kami dito, gawa-gawa lang yong kuwento dito. Madali daw makahanap ng taong babayaran para magsalita ng ganito. Pero ang sa ‘min lang po, hindi po kami gumagawa ng issue kasi kami mismo ‘yung hinire nila, nagtrabaho mismo sa [GMA-7] tungkol sa AGB."
Given the importance of ratings for the business strategies of television networks, an anomaly in the data gathering of AGB Nielsen has a devastating impact on the entire broadcast industry.
Is he aware of the group's impact on the way TV ratings are gathered in the country?
Sounding naïve, Mark bluntly confessed, "Noong una po, hindi. Kasi ang sa amin lang naman po matanggap lang namin yung suweldo namin, ayos na sa ‘min."
Aside from Mark, ABS-CBN's Atty. Maxim Uy revealed that the network has three more witnesses that are willing to backup Mark's allegations against AGB Nielsen and GMA-7.
Atty. Uy also announced that they are currently gathering additional data while thoroughly investigating reports that the same cheating operation is being conducted in the provinces of Cebu, Davao, and Iloilo.