By June 7, “Eat Bulaga” hosts Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, his brother Vic Sotto, and Joey de Leon would have “formally” decided on the media network to air their 44-year-old noontime television show that was shut down by its erstwhile producer last May 31.
Sotto, a former Senate president, told CoverStory.ph on Saturday that he and his colleagues hoped to firm up their decision in the weekend. But he was mum on the TV network that “Eat Bulaga” was eyeing as its new home.
He underscored the importance of their trio Tito, Vic and Joey (aka TVJ) being able to get along with people in their new base, in the same manner that they did with Antonio Tuviera, founding producer of “Eat Bulaga.” Tuviera’s removal by the production firm TAPE Inc. from the longest running variety show in the country was one of the reasons that set off the rift now rocking the entertainment community.
“We thrived for 44 years with Tuviera. If there is a network that we will transfer to, it’s important that we get along with them, too,” Sotto said.
Last May 31, TVJ announced online that they were “disengaging” from TAPE after it stopped them from airing live on GMA-7. The production firm is owned by the family of Romeo Jalosjos Sr., a former representative of Zamboanga del Norte and a convicted child rapist, and is now managed by his son and namesake.
Even before TVJ’s announcement and immediately after Tuviera’s removal from “Eat Bulaga,” talk had been rife about the rift between TVJ and TAPE.
“The new management thought we had some bad intention, that we would make some announcement on the show, when we actually went there to work,’’ Sotto said of the May 31 incident.
He said the management’s act of stopping them from airing live prompted them to decide on the spot that they would leave TAPE.
According to Sotto, TVJ could have stayed on until the anniversary of “Eat Bulaga” on July 30.
“If we were the employees, what the management did was an illegal lockdown,” he said, pointing out that there were labor laws that TAPE did not know and which it had violated.
All the other hosts led by Maine Mendoza and Paolo Ballesteros have also quit the show. Sotto said he and his camp were surprised and elated by the move of Mendoza and the other hosts to follow them in exiting TAPE.
Related: The original ‘Eat Bulaga’ will go on
Name, theme song
Aware that bringing back “Eat Bulaga” with its full name intact is up in the air for the moment, the brothers Sotto and De Leon are awaiting the action of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on their move seeking to cancel TAPE’s claim over the show’s name.
Sotto said their lawyers had completed documents and scenarios by the time they filed the case on June 2.
TAPE has been airing replays of the show since May 31. According to Sotto, the management has been using the show’s name and theme song that belong to TVJ, and not to TAPE.
He said that TVJ had never entered a contract with TAPE; that they had been dealing only with Tuviera; and that TAPE had dealt with Tuviera directly.
“Eat Bulaga” started airing on July 30, 1979, over the then RPN-9 network, while TAPE Inc. began operations on July 7, 1981, Sotto said.
“So the big question is: How can TAPE say they own ‘Eat Bulaga’? We did not sign anything with them or give anything to them,” he said.
He pointed out that it was De Leon who came up with the show’s name, and that his brother Vic composed its theme song. He said the management could continue to run the song but would be charged for its use by Star Music, TVJ’s publishing house.
‘Pinoy Henyo,’ etc.
Sotto said the management would also be asked to pay if it would run popular segments in the show that had been registered to staff members, including “Pinoy Henyo,” “Aldub,” “One for All” and “Bawal Judgmental.”
He said he had heard that the management planned to use “Eat Bulaga” as the name of the show—supposedly to be hosted by GMA-7 artists—that would replace the original.
He noted that TAPE had yet to inform the Movie and Television Review Classification Board about its airing of the show’s old episodes.
Sotto said 98% of the “Eat Bulaga” mainstays and crew had left TAPE. “You can see there that getting along with each other is more important. It’s not all about the money,’’ he said.
One of the show’s popular hosts, Alden Richards, still has a contract with GMA-7 but has turned down TAPE’s offer to join the new show, Sotto said, adding: “Maybe when [Alden] is done with his contract with GMA, we will ask him to join us.”
The former Senate president said that when the IPO cancels TAPE’s claims over “Eat Bulaga,” he and his camp would likely seek a temporary restraining order on the management.
He said it was only last June 2 that they sought the cancellation of TAPE’s registration in the early 2000s of all “Eat Bulaga” claims.
‘Moment of creation’
Sotto said TAPE had “in bad faith” filed for the registration of all “Eat Bulaga” merchandising and goods. But he noted Supreme Court jurisprudence favoring the work of creators and a work’s “moment of creation.”
It was only last February when TAPE under Jalosjos took over the program, replacing Tuviera. “The moment of creation of ‘Eat Bulaga’ was in 1979,’’ Sotto said.
Asked why they did not register the show’s name earlier, Sotto said they were banking on the “protection” provided by their good relationship with Tuviera.
Sotto also cited supposed promises made by TAPE on which, he said, the management had not delivered. As well, he cited figures concerning production costs including salaries of the hosts and staff, with profits skewed to the management.
Asked if “Eat Bulaga” advertisers would continue to support him and his camp under new management, Sotto said he was certain that they would do so, except for those who had paid for advertising with TAPE for the year.
He said that advertisers had promised support for TVJ to De Leon in a phone conversation, and that some advertisers had canceled business with TAPE.
But, again, Sotto made it clear that money had been immaterial to TVJ from the very start.
“That’s why we were abused, because what was important to us was we all got along,” he said, recounting that in the first year of the show they were not paid a salary that was then P1,200 each a week for the trio.
He said it was a good thing they were paid P1,200 each for another show, “Iskul Bukol,” per episode starting in 1978.
Among the networks that Sotto said had offered time slots to them were Channel 5, RPN-9, Net 25, and even CNN, which offered the 12 noon-3 p.m. slot for their program.
“Regardless of the channel, we want to bring ‘Eat Bulaga’ with us,’’ he said.
In the event they go on air without getting the TAPE cancellation, Sotto laughingly said they might temporarily use another name, such as “Eatsang libo, Eatsang Tuwa.” He was making a play on “isang libo’t, isang tuwa,” a reference to the show’s claimed nationwide joyful reach, which is part of its theme song.
And he didn’t seem to be joking.