Tito Sotto fails to take witness stand in ‘Eat Bulaga’ copyright case
Days before Television and Production Exponents (TAPE) Inc. obtained a renewal of “Eat Bulaga’s trademark registration, former Senator Tito Sotto was barred from taking the witness stand before the Marikina Regional Trial Court, which is hearing the copyright infringement and unfair competition charges lodged against the production outfit and GMA Network Inc.
During a recent hearing, Sotto was called to the stand by their lawyer to testify on their application for the writ of preliminary injunction (WPI), but a TAPE counsel opposed his testimony on the stand on two grounds — first, that Sotto did not previously submit a judicial affidavit (JA), and only a plain affidavit; and second, he was not excluded during the testimony of another plaintiff, Joey de Leon.
Sotto, de Leon and Vic Sotto (TVJ) is represented in court by Atty. Enrique dela Cruz Jr., along with former TAPE executive, Jeny Ferre. On the other hand, TAPE is represented by Atty. Marie Glen Abraham Garduque.
According to the submission of the plaintiffs, a judicial affidavit is not required, citing Section 10 of the Supreme Court’s Judicial Affidavit Rule, which states that, “a party who fails to submit the required judicial affidavits and exhibits on time shall be deemed to have waived their submission.”
Ruling on the arguments of the parties, Presiding Judge Romeo Dizon Tagra sustained the defendants, choosing to “rather err on the side of allowing the parties to present their case… on the merits rather than technicalities.”
The Marikina court then directed Sotto to submit his judicial affidavit, saying failure to do so will mean he will no longer be allowed to submit his testimony relative to their application for WPI.
The RTC however said that the requirement of the parties to submit a JA relative to the application of the WPI in this case is “only devised by the court for purposes of convenience as the same will already constitute as the direct testimony of the parties.”
“Besides, plaintiff Vicente Sotto has already his joint affidavit which he could have used as his testimony in support of the plaintiffs’ WPI application were it not of the directive of the court to submit a JA instead for convenience purposes,” read the Marikina court’s two-page order, a copy of which was obtained by INQUIRER.net.
Sought for comment, dela Cruz said the rule on JA is not necessary, “but it affords the adverse counsel an opportunity to see the questions and answers of the witness prior to the hearing.”
“The (judicial affidavit) rule says the penalty is a waiver of submission (not a waiver of testimony). Ibig sabihin, pag hindi ka nagsubmit ng judicial affidavit, waived na ang right mo to submit it, pero pwede ka pa din mag testify orally,” he told INQUIRER.net in a text message.
Meanwhile, after the hearing, Sotto took to his X (formerly Twitter) account with regards his failed testimony on the witness stand.
“I was prevented from testifying by the TAPE / GMA lawyers wanting a separate judicial affidavit when in fact we had a submitted affidavit weeks ago. Yun ang totoo (This is the truth)!” he wrote.
I was prevented from testifying by the tape/gma lawyers wanting a separate judicial affidavit when in fact we had a submitted affidavit weeks ago. Yun ang totoo!
— Tito Sotto (@sotto_tito) August 1, 2023
The court likewise maintained the next hearing date on August 11 and 25 for the continuation of the presentation of the last two witnesses for the plaintiffs.
The TVJ’s camp filed an application for the writ of preliminary injunction against TAPE’s use of “Eat Bulaga’s” name in the revamped noontime show, while their infringement and unfair competition case is pending. EDV