GMA7-Sarah Lahbati conflict: No end in sightBy Marinel R. Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It doesn’t look like the feud between GMA 7 and actress Sarah Lahbati will end anytime soon.
Lahbati insisted on Wednesday that she had no malicious intent in alleging “under-the-table deals” between GMA Artist Center (GMAAC) and the talent management group Icons. Her allegation is the subject of a libel suit filed against her by the network.
“I’m just telling the truth. People deserve to know,” Lahbati said on her Twitter account. “When you’re a small artist and new in this industry they will take advantage of you.”
She said she had in her possession “paperwork and proof” of the “involvement” of GMA Films president Annette Gozon-Abrogar and former head of Talent Management Arsi Baltazar in alleged anomalous comanagement deals covering some of the network’s contract artists, including herself.
Let courts decide
On Thursday, Abrogar filed a libel case against Lahbati with the Makati City prosecutor’s office so that, she said, “the case will now be brought to the proper forum.”
The criminal case was intended to avoid “trial by publicity,” the GMA executive said.
On Friday, GMA 7 further filed a P7-million civil suit for “Specific Performance with Damages” against Lahbati for breach of contract with the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
According to the complaint, Lahbati’s “continuous dishonor and flagrant violations of her obligations to perform her role as an artist in GMA 7’s TV programs is highly detrimental to the entertainment TV block of GMA 7; thus requiring Lahbati to immediately discharge her contractual obligations with GMA 7.”
GMA 7 president and CEO Felipe Gozon (Abrogar’s father) told the Inquirer on Wednesday that Lahbati’s decision to go on indefinite leave without the network’s approval was a violation of her talent contract.
By doing so, Gozon pointed out, Lahbati had failed to comply with her obligations under her contract with GMA 7, such as appearing in shows like “Party Pilipinas.”
For her part, Lahbati said she was considering filing a case against GMAAC for its alleged failure to pay her for work rendered since 2010. In the same Twitter post, she said, “I finished filming two movies… I still have collectible checks (sic) from guesting in different shows and out-of-town shows.”
The 19-year-old actress added that she tried “fixing these issues privately.” She continued: “I was even guaranteed protection by Gozon if I told every detail, but when the blame pointed toward Abrogar… it became a different story.”
GMA 7, in a statement issued on Wednesday, said it conducted its own investigation and found “no proof of (Lahbati’s) allegation that there was an ‘under-the-table deal’ between GMAAC and Icons.”
Despite the heated controversy, Gozon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the network would do “everything in its power to enforce its contract” with Lahbati until it ends on Feb. 21, 2015.
Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has offered to mediate between GMA 7 and Lahbati.
Said Revilla, who is Lahbati’s co-star in the latest fantasy-adventure series, “Indio,” produced by the Kapuso network, “I’m saddened by what happened. I’m willing to become their go-between just so this problem can be solved as soon as possible.”
He added: “It’s not good that they are fighting over something so insignificant. While this does not affect our show, I still don’t like misunderstandings among coworkers. I think it’s best that both sides forgive and forget.”
Revilla said he felt bad about Lahbati’s decision to leave show business, albeit temporarily.
The actress earlier said her parents had decided to send her to Switzerland to continue her studies.
“What a waste of talent,” Revilla said. “In this series, you will see how good an actress she is. Her role here is significant—she plays Indio’s mother.”
Rhian Ramos, also a cast member of “Indio,” said she found the issue “very irritating” and “didn’t like the way everyone handled it.”
Ramos added that she never had any problems like Lahbati’s during the time she was managed by GMAAC. She is now managed by Ronnie Henares’ Primeline.
“I just think the issue was really badly handled,” Ramos told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “I don’t think the problem was supposed to become this big. Everyone got a little too angry and a little too emotional.”
She said she was getting tired of reading about the controversy, adding, “People close to me have been affected by the issue and I don’t like that.”
She said the parties involved should “just talk about this calmly. No one has to publicly say bad things about anyone. Hopefully, we can all be grownups soon.”
“Indio,” which premieres tomorrow (Monday), also stars Jennylyn Mercado, Alden Richards, Michael de Mesa, Mark Gil, Jackie Lou Blanco, Sheena Halili, Agot Isidro, Maxene Magalona and Erah Madrigal, among others. Dondon Santos directs this series that airs weeknights on GMA Telebabad.
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