Court of Appeals releases resolution of ABS-CBN's copyright case against Willing Willie and TV5

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Si Willie Revillame mismo ang nag-announce ng desisyon ng Court of Appeals kahapon, March 10, sa Willing Willie.


Kahapon, March 10, ay inilabas ng Court of Appeals (CA) ang desisyon nito sa copyright case na isinampa ng ABS-CBN laban sa Willing Willie ng TV5. Ipinatigil ng CA ang pagdinig ng kaso sa Makati Regional Trial Court. (CLICK HERE to read related story.)

Nahahati sa apat na bahagi ang desisyon ng CA. Tinalakay nito ang mga sumusunod: (1) Consolidated Motion to Expunge na isinampa ng ABS-CBN sa CA para iaapela ang TRO na inihain nito sa Makati Court; (2) Motion for Intervention na isinampa ni Willie Revillame sa CA; (3) petisyon para sa Writ of Preliminary Injunction na isinampa ng TV5 sa CA, laban sa Makati RTC; at (4) petisyon ng ABS-CBN sa pagpapalit ng Cash Bond sa Isang Surety Bond.

Pumanig ang CA sa TV5 sa una, pangalawa, at pangatlong mga isyu. Samantala, pumanig naman ang CA sa ABS-CBN sa pang-apat na isyu.

Ang resolution ay ginawa ni Associate Justice Japar Dimaampo, samantalang kinatigan naman ito nina Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. at Associate Justice Jane Aurora Lantion.

MOTION TO DISMISS. Isinampa ng ABS-CBN ang copyright case laban sa Willing Willie at TV5 noong November 24, 2010 sa Makati RTC. Ayon sa network, gayang-gaya ng Willing Willie ang dati nitong programang Wowowee. Si Willie Revillame ang host ng parehong programa.

Humihingi ang ABS-CBN ng P127 milyon na danyos laban sa TV5, ang network na nagpapalabas sa Willing Willie.

Nakapagsampa naman ng Motion to Dismiss ang TV5 sa Makati RTC Branch 66, kung saan na dinidinig ang kaso (Civil Case No. 10-1155). Gayunpaman, naglabas ng desisyon ang Makati court noong December 2 na nagtuloy sa pagdinig sa kasong ito, at hindi na iniresolba muna ang nasabing petisyon. (CLICK HERE to read related story.)

Dahil dito, nagsampa ng Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition ang TV5 sa CA noong December 6. Pinanindigan ng TV5 na kailangang resolbahin muna ng Makati RTC ang kanilang Motion to Dismiss bago ituloy ang hearing para sa TRO.

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Pinakinggan ng CA ang TV5, at nagbaba ito ng isang TRO noong December 17, 2010, na nagpatigil sa nagaganap na hearing sa Makati RTC.

Bilang sagot, nagsampa naman ang ABS-CBN ng Manifestation with Urgent Motion to Dismiss, at Consolidated Motion to Expunge noong February 10, para mapawalang-bisa ang TRO laban sa Makati court.

Tinawag ng ABS-CBN na "grave abuse of discretion to the court" ang ginawang pag-file ng TV5 ng kanilang petisyon sa CA. Ayon sa Kapamilya network, "moot at academic" na raw ang petisyong ito.

Ngunit sa kabila ng petisyon ng ABS-CBN ay itinaguyod muli ng CA ang kanilang TRO sa resolusyong inilabas kahapon. Kinatigan ng CA ang TV5 at sinabing dapat nga munang resolbahin ng Makati court ang Motion to Dismiss bago ituloy ang hearing para sa copyright case.

Sinabi rin ng CA na hindi nito maaaring panigan ang isinampa ng ABS-CBN na Manifestation with Urgent Motion to Dismiss at Consolidated Motion to Expunge dahil nga maiiwang hindi naresolba ang ilang mga isyu, tulad ng Motion to Dismiss sa Makati court.

Narito ang nilalaman ng CA resolution:

"Foremost, private respondent's Motion to Dismiss.

"Private respondent ABS CBN Corporation bewails that this Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition imputes grave abuse of discretion to the court a quo in issuing the Order dated 2 December 2010 which denied the prayer of petitioners ABS Development Corporation ("ABC") and Ray espinosa to defer the proceedings on the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to enjoin the airing of Willing Willie, the television show which Revillame currently hosts and co-produces with petitioners, on the ground that it is confusingly similar to Wowowee, the television show produced by and then aired at private respondent. Petitions intransigently assert that the court a quo should have squarely resolved first their Motion to Dismiss and held in abeyance the hearings on the issueance of the TRO.

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"During the pendency of this Petition, private respondent apprised Us of the court a quo's issuance of the Order dated 17 December 2010 finally denying petitioners' Motion to Dismiss. Perforce, private respondent postulated that the Petition has become moot and academic warranting its immediate dismissal.

"The Motion to Dismiss does not hold sway.

"A case becomes moot when there is no more actual controversy between the partners or no more useful purpose can be served in passing upon the merits. Courts will not determine a moot question in a case in which no practical relief can be granted. It is unnecessary to indulge in academic discussion of a case presenting a moot question, as a judgment thereon cannot have any practical legal effect or, in the nature of things, cannot be enforced.

"Au contrario to private respondent's stance, herein Petition is not solely rooted on the query of whether certiorari will lie against the court a quo for refusing to rule on petitioners' Motion to Dismiss, as it instead scheduled hearing for the reception of evidence on the propriety of the issuance of the TRO. The Petition unveils that petitioners likewise raised the issues of lack of cause of action, forum shopping, improper venue and splitting a cause of action. These are the justiciable disputations that We are called upon to deliberate and adjudicate upon.

"It does perplex Us as to how private respondent could obstinately bellow on the supposed mootness of the Petition. In truth, in its Consolidated Motion to Expunge dated 10 February 2011, private respondent even propounded other justifications which are likewise ripe for adjudication, namely: that it was petitioners who engaged in willful and deliberate forum shopping; and that petitioners' Supplemental Petition and Opposition to the Urgent Motion to Dismiss was filed in blatant disregard of procedural rules. These issues will certainly be left hang out to dry with the dismissal of this Petition.

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"With the foregoing discourse, private respondent's Manifestation with Urgent Motion to Dismiss and Consolidated Motion to Expunge are hereby DENIED."

MOTION FOR INTERVENTION. Pinanigan naman ng CA ang plea for intervention na isinampa ni Willie Revillame.

Hindi kasama si Willie sa mga kampong dawit sa Civil Case No. 10-1155 na isinampa ng ABS-CBN sa Makati RTC.

Ang plaintiff sa kaso ay ang ABS-CBN, at ang defendants ay ang TV5 at ang presidente nitong si Atty. Ray Espinosa.

Sa Motion for Intervention na isinampa ni Willie sa CA, sinabi nitong malaki ang involvement niya sa kaso.

Pinanigan ito ng CA.

Ayon dito, ang intervention ng TV host ay hindi magpapakumplikado sa kaso dahil ang interes niya rito ay "actual, material, at immediate."

"His interest is so intertwined with that of petitioners so that his claims could not possibly be treshed out in a separate proceeding," saad ng CA resolution.

Narito ang nilalaman ng CA resolution:

"Second, Revillame's Motion for Intervention.

"Revillame beseeches Us to allow his plea for intervention as he stands to be benefited or prejudiced by the eventual outcome of the Petition. As the principal defendant in Civil Case No. 10-1155, he asseverates that the crux of the controversy is anchored on whether the airing and production of Willing Willie is a mere imitation or reproduction of Wowowee.

"Steadfast in its opposition, private respondent points out that Revillame trifled with procedure as he filed, without proper leave of court, his Manifestation dated 6 December 2010, as well as his Supplemental Petition dated 30 December 2010.

"Concededly, Revillame committed sheer procedural cop-out when he filed the aforesaid pleadings before asking for leave of court to intervene. Nonetheless, the rule on intervention, like all othe rules of procedure, is intended to make the powers of the Court completely available for Justice. It is aimed to facilitate a comprehensive adjudication of rival claims, overriding technicalities on the timeliness of the filing of the claims.

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"Veritably, the prayer for intervention rests on compelling grounds so that despite the aforesaid procedural infirmity, We resolved to grant, pro hac vice, the Motion for Intervention.

"Intervention is a remedy by which a third party, not originally impleaded in the proceedings, becomes a litigant therein to enable him, her or it to protect or preserve a right or interest which may be affected by such proceedings. Intervention shall be allowed when a person has (1) a legal interest in the matter in litigation; (2) or in the success of any of the parties; (3) or an interest against the parties; (4) or when he is so situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or disposition of property in the custody of the court or an officer thereof. Moreover, the court must take into consideration whether or not the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties, and whether or not the intervenor's right or interest can be adequately pursued and protected in a separate proceeding.

"To Our mind, Revillame's intervention would not unnecessarily snarl-up this Petition as his interest herein is actual, material, amnd immediate. He will either gain or lose by the direct legal operation and effect of Our judgment. His interest is so intertwined that of petitioners so that his claims could not possibly be treshed out in a separate proceeding.

"Parenthetically, intervention would neither modify the character of this Petition nor magnify the issues already adduced before Us. Revillame's intervention would not unduly hamper or complicate adjudication of the rights of the principal parties.

"Upon these premises, the Motion for Intervention is hereby GRANTED."

WRIT OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION. Nagpetisyon din ang CA para maghain ng writ of preliminary injunction na magpapatigil sa pagdinig sa Civil Case No. 10-1155, na isinampa ng ABS-CBN sa Makati RTC.

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Ayon sa TV5, mayroon silang karapatan na iere ang Willing Willie bilang lisensiyadong istasyon ng telebisyon. Ang karapatan daw na ito ay portektado ng freedom of speech clause na matatagpuan sa Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas.

Pagpapatuloy ng TV5, ang nagaganap daw na mga pagdinig sa Makati court ay isang "invasion of their freedom of expression and freedom from prior restraint." Ang mga pagdinig ay naglalagay umano sa Willing Willie sa panganib na mahainan ng TRO anumang oras, panganib na makakaapekto sa ratings ng network at sa mga obligasyon nito sa advertisers at stakeholders.

Kapag natigil daw ang pagsasahimpapawid ng Willing Willie, mapuputol ang kanilang hangarin na makatulong sa mga mahihirap at sa staff at crew ng show, dagdag ng TV5.

At pinanigan nga ng CA ang petisyon ng TV5, at pinagbawalan nito ang Makati RTC na ipagpatuloy ang pagdinig sa Civil Case No. 10-1155.

Ayon sa CA resolution, "We cannot turn a blind eye to the incalculable losses that petitioners may suffer once the airing of Willing Willie is enjoined. Their contractual obligations to sponsors and advertisers, as well as to Willing Willie's production crew and staff, would certainly be put in jeopardy. The opportunity to offer joy and consolation to the millions of Filipinos who eagerly watch the show, with many actually joining and winning the contests, would dissipate into thin air. In the higher interest of justice, We are of the considered opinion that an injunctive writ is necessary to forestall this irreparable injury that may be suffered by petitioners."

Narito ang nilalaman ng CA resolution:

"Third, on the propriety of the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.

"Petitioners assert that as a licensed and authorized radio, broadcasting and television station, they have a clear and unmistakable right to freely broadcast Willing Willie. Their right to broadcasting is protected by no less than the Constitutional guarantee of the freedom of speech. They bemoan that the issuance of the TRO is imminent given that the court a quo has been conducting hearings precisely for their purpose. These illegal proceedings constitute invasion of their freedom of expression and freedom from prior restraint.

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"Resolutely imploring that We issue the writ of preliminary injunction, petitioners avow that their goodwill, prestige and reputation continue to be damaged while the application for TRO is being heard before the court a quo. Th airing of Willing Willie is continuously at the risk of being abruptly enjoined once the court a quo issues the TRO. Moreover, Willing Willie has been airing for four months and has propelled petitioner ABC as a major television network so that the station's ratings will be severely affected, and its programming seriously affected because Willing Willie is a live, daily primetime show. Petitioners foresee the possibility that they might be unable to fulfill their contractual obligations with advertisers and stakeholders. If the airing of Willing Willie is brought to a standstill, petitioners lament that their intent to help the poor who participate in the show, as well as the production staff and crew, would be cut short.

"We discern compelling justifications to issue the writ of preliminary injunction.

"Injunction is the strong arm of equity which must be issued with great caution and deliberation, and only in cases of great injury where there is no commensurate remedy in damages.

"In light of the factual milieu obtaining in this controversy, We are convinced that there is an extreme urgency and imperative need to preserve the status quo of this case until the merits of the Petition have been fully adjudicated upon. The crucial queries brought before Us ought to be resolved first before the court a quo could press on with the hearing for the issuance of the TRO. Our eventual decision on these issues may be put to naught if the court a quo is allowed to receive the parties' respective evidence and upon which, decide the case on the merits.

"The alleged right of private respondent over the Copyright on Wowowee is precisely being questioned by petitioners, and thus, if the court a quo is allowed to proceed with the hearing of the case, Our adjudication of one of the primal issues-lack of cause of action, would be rendered moot and academic.

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"In the same vein, the writ of preliminary injunction shall forestall the injurious effects, which are grave and irreparable, that would result from the defiance of the status quo.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the incalculable losses that petitioners may suffer once the airing of Willing Willie is enjoined. Their contractual obligations to sponsors and advertisers, as well as to Willing Willie's production crew and staff, would certainly be put in jeopardy. The opportunity to offer joy and consolation to the millions of Filipinos who eagerly watch the show, with many actually joining and winning the contests, would dissipate into thin air. In the higher interest of justice, We are of the considered opinion that an injunctive writ is necessary to forestall this irreparable injury that may be suffered by petitioners.

"With these ratiocinations, the prayer for the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction is hereby GRANTED. Accordingly, a WRIT OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION is issued enjoining public respondent from conducting further proceedings, issuing orders and performing such other acts in Civil Case No. 10-1155, which would render the instant controversy moot and academic, effective during the pendency of the instant Petition."

CASH BOND TO SURETY BOND. Sa huli ay tinalakay sa CA resolution ang petisyon ng TV5 na baguhin ang cash bond na required sa kanila at gawin itong surety bond.

Matatandaang kasama sa TRO na ibinaba ng CA sa Makati Court noong December 17, 2010 ang order na magbayad ng P102.4-million na cash bond ang mga defendant sa kaso na TV5 at si Atty. Ray Espinosa.

Gayunpaman, nagsampa raw ng petisyon ang TV5 na baguhin ang cash bond, at gawin itong surety bond.

Magkaiba ang cash bond at surety bond. Ang cash bond ay ibinabayad sa korte bilang cash, at ang surety bond ay isang kontrata, kung saan nangangako ang magbabayad ng kaukulang-halaga sa darating na panahon.

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Tutol ang ABS-CBN sa petisyong ito ng TV5 dahil wala raw naibigay na positibong dahilan ang TV5 para baguhin ang klase ng bond.

Pumanig ang CA sa ABS-CBN sa isyung ito.

Narito ang nilalaman ng CA resolution:

"Finally, the Motion to Substitute Cash Bond with a Surety Bond.

"Petitioners maintain that the rules do not require what particular type of bond may be posted to answer for the damages that private respondent may sustain with the issuance of the injunctive relief. Private respondent, on the other hand, obdurately opposes the Motion asservating that petitioners failed to proffer positive reasons for the substitution of the bond.

"To Our mind, the Motion to Substitute Cash Bond with a Surety Bond echoes on hollow ground.

"The cash bond readily assures private respondent that it shall be compenstaed, without difficulty or delay, for the damages that it may suffer resulting from the issuance of the writ. It is precisely for this reason that Our Resolution of 17 December 2010 required the filing of a cash bond, and not a surety bond. We find no persuasive basis to grant the substitution prayed for.

"Accordingly, the Motion to Substitute Cash Bond with a Surety Bond is hereby DENIED. We hold and so rule that the cash amoutning to P102,400,000 posted for the TRO shall continue to answer for any and all damages that private respondent may suffer with the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction, should We finally decide that petitioners are not entitled thereto."


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