Johnny Manahan clarifies he never wanted Star Magic to be "independent" of ABS-CBN

by Rachelle Siazon
Jan 26, 2021
Johnny Manahan, aka Mr. M, on unresolved "conflict of interest" involving overlapping functions of business units in ABS-CBN: "We must have done something really good for them to fall over each other in taking over Star Magic, with the swiftest consent of higher management!"
PHOTO/S: Jerome Ascaño for Summit Media / Star Magic YouTube

Klinaro ni Johnny Manahan na hindi niya kailanman inisip na ang Star Magic ay isang kumpanyang hiwalay sa ABS-CBN.

Nirerespeto raw niyang ang mga pinakamataas na "boss" ng ABS-CBN corporation ang siyang may "last say" sa Star Magic.

Kaya nga raw, bilang pinuno ng Star Magic noon, diretso siyang nakikipag-ugnayan sa network big boss para sa anumang bagay na may kinalaman sa pamamahala ng in-house talents ng network.

Kilala bilang Mr. M, si Johnny ay respetadong star maker at TV director ng Philippine entertainment industry.

Paglilinaw ni Mr. M sa PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal): "To be perfectly clear, we never wanted to be 'independent' of ABS-CBN.

"We just wanted to be left alone to do our job and report only to one person at ABS-CBN."

Sa paglalahad pa rin ni Mr. M, sina Freddie M. Garcia at Charo Santos-Concio ang dalawa sa naging big bosses sa ABS-CBN na nakakaintinding ang mandato at teritoryo ng Star Magic ay ang discovery at management ng network talents.

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Si Freddie, na kilala bilang FMG, ang executive vice president at general manager ng ABS-CBN nang hikayatin nito si Mr. M na tulungang makabangon muli ang istasyon noong 1987.

Ito ay matapos ibalik noong 1986 ni Pangulong Corazon Aquino sa Lopez family ang ABS-CBN, na binuwag ni Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos noong 1972, nang magdeklara ito ng martial law upang makapanatili sa puwesto.

Taong 1992 nang magkasamang binuo nina FMG at Mr. M ang ABS-CBN Talent Center, na kalaunan ay nakilalang Star Magic.

Si FMG ay naging ABS-CBN President and Chief Executive Officer mula 1998 hanggang 2003.

Si Charo naman ay tumayong President ng ABS-CBN mula 2008 hanggang 2015. Nagsilbi rin siyang Chief Executive Officer ng network mula 2012 hanggang 2015.

Nang siya ay magretiro, in-appoint si Charo bilang Chief Content Officer ng ABS-CBN mula 2015 hanggang sa kasalukuyan.

Paglalarawan ni Mr. M sa dalawang ABS-CBN executives, na siyang dahilan daw kaya namiss niya ang mga ito: "Someone who could understand our primary mission of discovering and training stars for ABS-CBN.

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"And also someone who would agree that no other entity within ABS-CBN would handle or manage artists, as this would lead to major conflicts of interest."

Sa kabuuan, aminado si Mr. M na maganda ang naging karanasan niya sa Kapamilya network sa loob ng "35 or 40 years" nang pagtratrabaho niya roon.

"ABS has been good to me," pagsusuma nito.

Malaki rin daw ang bilib ni Mr. M sa galing at talento ng mga tao ng ABS-CBN.

Pero sa huli, ang kawalan daw ng aksyon ng ABS-CBN management sa problema ng Star Magic ang nag-udyok sa kanyang lisanin na ang network.

Dismayadong pahayag ni Mr. M: "Ayoko na. I've had enough. Hindi ko na gusto pagpapatakbo dun, e.

"They didn't give us the respect anymore.

"Parang ina-undercut kami ng ginagawa nilang talent center. May mga talent sila. They will make us irrelevant.

"They didn't see that. I don't know why."

Napagod na raw siya sa sistema ng management na magpatakbo ng "shadow talent center."

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"Even for the last two or three years, parang nawala na yung lasa ko [sa talent management], even directing...

"All I wanted to do was rest after fifty years [in the industry]. Come to think of it, fifty years non-stop. I've been working since I was 25. Thirty-five of those years was with ABS-CBN.

"At a certain point, I got tired."

Pagpapatuloy ni Mr. M: "I'm not gonna do this anymore, especially with the current people around.

"All the old people I used to know, wala na rin.

"So, in the patois of showbiz, wala nang kuwentang kausap."

Bahagyang natawa si Mr. M sa prangkang sinambit niya, pero pinandigan niya rin ito.

"Wala na silang kuwentang kausap," pag-uulit niya. "So, I just wanted to rest."

"SHADOW TALENT CENTER"

Sa puntong ito, may patutsada si Mr. M sa ilang ABS-CBN executives na nagkumahog umanong pasukan ang talent management, na dapat daw ay nakatalaga sa Star Magic.

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"But almost as soon as FMG and Charo retired, everyone started handling artists, culminating in TV Production taking over Star Magic itself," prangkang sambit ni Mr. M.

May panunuyang dagdag nito, "We must have done something really good for them to fall over each other in taking over Star Magic, with the swiftest consent of higher management!"

Inaalmahan ni Mr. M ang business units (BUs) ng ABS-CBN na bumuo ng tinatawag niyang mga "shadow talent center."

Lahat ng BUs sa ABS-CBN, kasama ang BUs sa labas ng TV entertainment, ay nasa pangangasiwa ni Maria Socorro "Cory" Vidanes, ang Chief Operating Officer ng network.

Mandato ng BUs ng TV entertainment ang magprodyus ng mga programa, tulad ng teleserye, drama anthology, reality shows, variety shows, noontime shows, at talk shows.

Pero kalaunan ay tumawid daw ang mga ito sa pag-scout at pag-train ng potential talents o kaya naman ay pag-manage mismo ng mga napupusuang artista.

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Sa loob ng network, dalawang units ang gumagawa na nito: ang unit ni Raymund Dizon na may hawak ng Pinoy Big Brother at Star Hunt; at ang unit ni Roldeo "Deo" Endrinal na Dreamscape, na namamahala sa careers ng piling stars, prinsipal na ang career ni Coco Martin.

Tahasang sabi ni Mr. M: "In my view, it’s a big crime. It’s the easy way out.

"But sana [yung] sa kanila na lang, dun na lang sila. But they try to expand it pa.

"Yung PBB [ex-housemates] ginawang talent nila...pati sa Star Hunt ganun.

"They're trying to put up a group or groups."

Ang Pinoy Big Brother, o PBB, ang Philippine version ng Big Brother reality show franchise, na mayroon nang 15 seasons mula 2005 hanggang sa kasalukuyan, kabilang ang umeere pang PBB: Connect.

Karamihan sa ex-housemates na natapos na ang stint sa PBB ay sumasabak sa pag-aartista.

Ang Star Hunt, na inilunsad noong 2018, ay audition caravan ng ABS-CBN, kunsaan ang napiling auditionees ay sumailalim sa training camp ng Star Hunt Academy.

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Noong 2020 ay may aspiring idol groups na inilunsad mula sa Star Hunt talent management na pinamumunuan ni Laurenti Dyogi.

Ayon kay Mr. M, lumalabas na kinakalaban pa ng mga "shadow talent center" ng PBB at Star Hunt ang Star Magic.

"They set up their own organization. It was like a counter organization. And that didn't sit too well with my people," dismayadong sambit ni Mr. M.

Nitong mga nakalipas na taon, hindi na raw ipinapasa ng PBB sa Star Magic ang pag-manage ng mga nag-aartistang ex-housemates, o kung mayroon man ay mga "latak" o napagpilian na raw ang mga ito.

Gayong ang Star Magic, aniya, ang may mandatong gawing in-house talents ang PBB Big Winners at iba pang ex-housemates na may star potential.

Star Magic ang nag-manage sa showbiz careers ng ex-PBB housemates na sina Kim Chiu, Gerald Anderson, Robi Domingo, Joshua Garcia, Melai Cantiveros, Maymay Entrata, at Edward Barber.

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Sambit pa ni Mr. M, kung siya din lang ay kakayanin niyang sarilinin ang hinaing.

Pero nabahala na raw nang husto ang Star Magic staff at talents sa isyu ng "conflict of interest" kaugnay ng "shadow talent center."

Paliwanag ni Mr. M: "My people were complaining to me, 'Bakit ganyan Mr. M? Bakit sila may sariling talent center?'

"I said, 'Yeah, that's not too nice. That makes us irrelevant.' Maybe they're trying to make us irrelevant.

"We kept saying, 'Sa amin iyan, e.' That's right down our alley."

Kaya nga raw nang binuo ang Talent Center noong 1992, usapan na raw nina Mr. M at FMG na teritoryo ng Talent Center ang pag-manage ng in-house stars ng ABS-CBN.

Ibig sabihin, hindi raw dapat panghimasukan ito ng ibang BU o ng sinumang executive, maliban na lang sa pinaka-big boss ng network, para malinaw ang kani-kanilang scope of work.

"That's why I made a treatise with the boss when we started this thing.

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"Di ba, Freddie, madalas mo sabihin 'kanya-kanyang raket?' In other words, you don't mind me, I don't mind you. You do your thing, I do my thing.

"Di ba, Freddie? Kanya-kanyang raket ito."

Sabay tukoy niya sa mga umaagaw umano ng turf ng Star Magic, "People now, nakalimutan nila yun. Gusto nila kunin yung raket namin—Star Magic."

Noong January 19, 2021, mahigit dalawang oras nakapanayam ng editorial team ng PEP si Mr. M sa isang virtual conference.

Kasunod ito ng "sandwich session," na halos dalawang oras din, kasama naman ang editors ng lahat ng digital sites ng Summit Media.

Taliwas sa pinalalabas ng ilan na panay ang painterbyu ni Mr. M, iisang upuan lamang ang nangyari at hinati lamang ang session sa dalawa.

Nagkataon lang ding dalawang araw bago ng exclusive interview ng Summit Media editors at PEP staff, tinanggal sa ere ang idinirek niyang musical-variety show sa TV5, ang Sunday Noontime Live.

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Pero humihingi na ng interview kay Mr. M ang PEP.ph editor-in-chief na si Jo-Ann Maglipon noon pang November 2020.

"CONFLICT OF INTEREST"

Ipinunto ni Mr. M na may nakikita siyang "conflict of interest" sa "shadow talent center" dahil nagkakaroon ng overlapping of functions ang ABS-CBN BUs.

Paliwanag ng founding head ng Talent Center/Star Magic: "The primary duty of Star Magic is to see to the welfare of the artist.

"If there is a conflict of interest with TV production—as in determining roles or the amount of money due the artist—we usually side with the artist.

"Now if they [management] assume the role of managers and watch out for the welfare of the artist, what happens now if there is a conflict of interest?

"Who will step up in defense of the artist?"

Si Mr. M ang pinuno ng Star Magic mula 1992 hanggang sa magretiro siya noong 2007.

Pumalit sa kanya sa puwesto si Mariole Alberto, na namahala ng Star Magic mula 2007 hanggang sa magretiro ito nitong December 2020.

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Pero kahit na retired sa ABS-CBN, aktibo si Mr. M bilang chairman emeritus ng Star Magic mula 2007 hanggang sa naiulat ang pag-alis niya sa ABS-CBN noong September ng nakaraang taon.

Sa loob ng 28 years na pinamahaalan niya ang Star Magic, maipagmamalaki raw ni Mr. M na "number one" ang kanilang prized stars.

Prayoridad daw niya ang kapakanan ng mga artista, partikular na ang pakikipagnegosasyon sa talent fee ng mga artista.

Ilan sa Star Magic artists na sumikat nang husto sa showbiz ay sina Claudine Barretto, Piolo Pascual, Jericho Rosales, Kristine Hermosa, Jodi Sta. Maria, Daniel Padilla, Kathryn Bernardo, Kim Chiu, Gerald Anderson, Maja Salvador, Angelica Panganiban, Liza Soberano, Enrique Gil, at Joshua Garcia.

Inaalagaan din daw ng Star Magic ang pagpili ng roles ng artista para ma-sustain ang kinang nito sa industriya.

Sa madaling salita, ayaw daw ni Mr. M na nadedehado ang Star Magic artists.

Kaya raw pinalagan niya ang BUs ng ABS-CBN na gumagawa ng "shadow talent center." Nagdudulot daw ito ng agam-agam sa network stars.

"And then, because they have their own stars, the suspicion [is] that they were favoring people.

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"Our stars began to think that way. 'Bakit sila pinapabor? What will happen to us?'

"Haay, the only way is to fight harder."

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ALLEGED LACK OF ACTION FROM HIGHER UPS

Inilaban daw ni Mr. M ang mandato ng Star Magic sa pamamagitan ng pakikipag-usap sa higher management ng ABS-CBN.

Ayon kay Mr. M, "I took this up with higher management. Nothing happened for two years. Nothing happened for three years."

Tingin ni Mr. M, kung nakaupo pa sa puwesto sina Charo at FMG, hindi raw palulusutin ng mga ito ang mga "shadow talent center."

"I miss the days when FMG and Charo were around. Because of their high ethical standards, they would have done something about it," sambit ni Mr. M.

"All the old guys like me—Freddie retired; Rolly Cruz, he passed away; Charo Santos retired—and there was nobody else to talk to except the new guys.

"I don't think they [current management] understood. They didn't understand the fact that it was a corrosive thing to do—having another talent management center there."

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Puno man ng pangamba ay wala raw magawa si Mr. M.

Ulit niya, "They never addressed it. What am I gonna say to my people?"

TV PRODUCTION "TAKING OVER STAR MAGIC"

Sa pagsusuma ni Mr. M, kakatwa raw na nauwi ang paghawak ng Star Magic sa ABS-CBN TV Production Head na si Laurenti Dyogi.

Si Dyogi ang in-appoint na maging big boss ng Star Magic nang magretiro si Mariole Alberto nitong December 2020.

Pinamumunuan din ni Dyogi ang Star Hunt Academy.

Ang BINI at Star Hunt Academy boys—na produkto ng Star Hunt—ang mga bagong talents na pumirma ng kontrata sa Star Magic noong December 4, 2020.

Iyon ang unang contract signing nila bilang Star Magic artists sa ilalim ng pamumuno ni Dyogi.

Tingin ni Mr. M, hindi maiiwasan ang isyu ng "conflict of interest" kung bahagi ng ABS-CBN management, o TV production head, ang namamahala ng Star Magic.

Diretsong sabi niya: "There's Lauren Dyogi who took over the Star Magic. It's a bad thing.

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"Because when management takes over Star Magic, who's gonna watch management?

"Management does a lot of bad things for the artist.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Naks, Latin yun, a! Who's gonna watch the watchers? Sila-sila yun, e."

Nabanggit ni Mr. M kung bakit dapat hiwalay ang ABS-CBN management at ABS-CBN talent-management arm.

Aniya, "Siyempre mauuna yung needs nila kaysa dun sa talent. You can see that when it comes to negotatiating talent fees. Kawawa yung talent, e. That's one of the reasons why."

ON SHORT STINT WITH SNL ON TV5

Bukod sa pagiging star maker, nakilala si Mr. M bilang direktor ng iconic TV sitcoms sa ABS-CBN, tulad ng Chika Chika Chicks (1984-1991), Palibhasa Lalake (1987-1998), Home Along Da Riles (1992-1997), at Oki Doki Doc (1993-2000).

Si Mr. M din ang humulma ng ASAP, ang longest-running musical-variety show na umere sa ABS-CBN mula 1995 hanggang sa kasalukuyan. Hinawakan din ni Mr. M ang noontime show na Wowowee noong 2005.

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Noong September 2020, naiulat ang pag-alis ni Mr. M sa ABS-CBN. Kasabay nito ang balitang siya ang huhulma ng Sunday Noontime Live (SNL), ang blocktimer show na iprinodyus ng Brightlight Productions.

Wala raw sanang balak si Mr. M na tanggapin ito kundi lang dahil sa dating staff ng ASAP na na-retrench matapos ibasura ng Kongreso ang franchise renewal application ng ABS-CBN noong July 2020.

"There was an offer to do this show in Channel 5. I never really intended to do it.

"Then, I thought of all these people who were put out of work. Maybe I can help by doing the show and putting those guys, very talented guys, at work.

"Maybe we can do a show for a while. I never really thought it would last forever. It was something for the immediate future."

Inasahan daw ni Mr. M na tatagal ng anim na buwan o dalawang season ang SNL dahil iyon ang ipinangako ng Brightlight Productions producer na si Albee Benitez.

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Pero tumalikod daw si Benitez sa kanilang usapan.

Umere ang SNL mula October 18, 2020, hanggang sa bigla itong kinansela at huling emere noong January 17, 2021.

Ang pumalit sa timeslot ng SNL sa TV5 ay ASAP Natin 'To.

Sa ngayon, nasa "hiatus" daw muna si Mr. M.

Kung anuman ang susunod niyang trabaho ay pag-iisipan pa raw niya.

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Johnny Manahan, aka Mr. M, on unresolved "conflict of interest" involving overlapping functions of business units in ABS-CBN: "We must have done something really good for them to fall over each other in taking over Star Magic, with the swiftest consent of higher management!"
PHOTO/S: Jerome Ascaño for Summit Media / Star Magic YouTube
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