Former senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III has broken his silence on the controversies surrounding Eat Bulaga!, the longest running noontime show in the Philippines.
In a podcast released Tusday evening (April 25), Sotto revealed that the rumors regarding rebranding came about because higher-ups believed they were losing profits and that many of his co-hosts were asked to resign from the 44-year old show.
Speaking with entertainment reporter Nelson Canlas on his podcast Updated With Nelson Canlas, Tito explained that while Tuviera is still at TAPE Inc., its organizational structure has been changed.
"Ang sabi sa amin, nalulugi raw," Tito told Canlas in the 35-minute long podcast interview. "Kailangan daw baguhin ang nagpapatakbo at kailangan daw i-reinvent ang Eat Bulaga! At mayroon daw mga portion na bored [ang mga board members]. I have the videos and the statements to prove that."
"Ginusto raw nung board, according to the person talking to us—the acting CEO or the president na nagpalit kay Tony Tuviera—ang gusto raw eh i-retire si Tony at pumasok 'yung grupo nila para patakbuhin 'yung production. Ganun 'yung original na pinaplano," Tito said.
Responding to whether the Eat Bulaga! hosts will be retained, an insulted Tito said, "Alam mo, masagwang pakinggan sa'min 'yung 'mareretain kami.' Para bang pwede kaming sipain, eh kami nga ang Eat Bulaga! eh. [M]ag-iingat naman kayo sa mga bitaw ng salita dahil nakakasakit 'yung mga salita niyo."
Earlier online reports alleged that former congressman Romy Jalosjos was seeking to take control of Television and Production Exponents (TAPE) Inc. which produces Eat Bulaga! from his business partner Tony Tuviera and "rebrand" the show by kicking out the three pioneer hosts, Tito, Vic, and Joey de Leon.
Willie Revillame, another veteran TV host in the country, has had his name thrown in the mix as reports say that Romy wants him to be the replacement of the prominent trio.
This has since been called as fake news by Romy's son Bullet, who serves as TAPE Inc.'s Chief Financial Officer. He even assured the public that the trio will "definitely" stay, along with the other hosts, in his interview with Boy Abunda.
Speaking with Canlas, Tito said he and the others were against the changes in their show as nothing was wrong with their current setup.
"Ikinalulungkot namin. All of a sudden, out of the blue—may kasabihan ang mga Amerikano na 'Why fix it if it ain't broke?'" he confessed.
He continued, "Nagugulat kami na after 43 years, biglang magkakaroon ng kontrobersya, nabulabog ang Eat Bulaga! Samantalang nananahimik and everything was doing well."
Despite having sat down with higher-ups and reaching an agreement, the issue erupted again when a member of the board reportedly gave inaccurate information to a news outlet.
Tito also said that the corporation owed Vic and Joey money, "Ang laki ng utang kay Vic at kay Joey. Mahigit tig-30 million pesos ang utang sa kanila, for 2022 alone."
This did not sit well with him, especially since Bullet dispelled rumors that the corporation owed Vic P2 billion. Tito cited records about how TAPE Inc. had garnered P213 million net profit in 2021, and this was further increased the following year because of the political advertisements brought about by the election.
The former senate president expressed his disappointment upon learning that TAPE Inc. was asking everyone to resign, especially the less prominent hosts and crew members with lower incomes.
"Pinagreresign, pinagreretire, at i-rerehire naman daw. Sabi ko nga, 'What is the guarantee that they will be rehired sa oras na nagretire na sila'. Eh kasi raw para maayos ang budget, mas mababa ang iswesweldo," he said.
When asked about Tuviera's decision to step down as the president and CEO of TAPE, Inc. starting in March, Tito said that he does not believe that he made the decision willingly.
"I don't think so, I think he was asked to retire. That is my opinion," he said.
His statements contradict Bullet's words in his interview with Abunda, where he said that his dad "begged" Tuviera to stay a little bit longer. He also made it clear that the alleged rebranding is merely the executives trying to improve the show.
With the uncertain future of Eat Bulaga!, Tito stressed that the higher-ups should just leave everything as it is.
"Let sleeping dogs lie. It's doing well, leave it alone. That's one road to take. The other road is, hindi na tayo pwede magsama kapag ganun. [W]e've never severed ties with Tony Tuviera. If you're talking of the corporation—TAPE Inc. and Eat Bulaga!, my answer would be: let's cross the bridge when we get there," he said in the podcast.
Eat Bulaga! first started airing in 1979 and has gone on to release over 13,000 episodes. Aside from Tito, Vic, and Joey, other celebrities including Jose Manalo, Allan K., Wally Bayola, Paolo Ballesteros, Alden Richards, Maine Mendoza, and more serve as hosts.
PhilSTAR L!fe has reached out to TAPE Inc., but has yet to receive a reply.