Martin Romualdez

FAST FACTS: Media Serbisyo, Martin Romualdez’s joint venture with ABS-CBN

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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FAST FACTS: Media Serbisyo, Martin Romualdez’s joint venture with ABS-CBN

LINKS. Actress Karla Estrada hosts a radio show 'Ang Tinig Nyo' on Saturdays on DWPM Radyo 630, a joint venture between a Romualdez holding firm and ABS-CBN.

Screenshot from Karla Estrada's Instagram

Although House Speaker Martin Romualdez is not in any official document in his joint venture with ABS-CBN, the directors representing his holding firm in Media Serbisyo Production Corporation all have links to him and his business interests

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Martin Romualdez is not in any official document in his broadcasting joint venture with ABS-CBN Corporation – incorporated as Media Serbisyo Production Corporation – which was launched middle of 2023.

The closest person working in the radio station DWPM Radyo 630 who has links to him is actress-TV host Karla Estrada. She hosts the weekend program, Ang Tinig Nyo (Your Voice), 1:30 to 3:30 pm on Saturdays.  

Estrada was the third nominee of Tingog, the party of the Speaker’s wife, Yedda Marie, in the 2022 party-list elections. The party placed third and won two seats, and Ms. Romualdez sits as one of two representatives of Tingog in the lower house; the other is Jude Acidre. Estrada, however, became a “Consultant on Social Services and Promotions of the Office of Speaker Martin Romualdez and Tingog Party-List” after the polls.

“To support the Speaker’s social welfare reform initiatives, Karla Estrada is mandated to coordinate with different government and non-government agencies for possible partnership and implementation of various social services programs and to create information drive campaigns for the projects and programs implemented,” said a post on Ms. Romualdez’s Instagram account in September 2022.

“Crisis Intervention Programs, Hospital Patient Assistance, Self-Employment Assistance, Children in need of Special Protections, Aid to persons with disability, and the program for Elders, Women, and Out of School Youth are some of Karla’s initiatives focus. ” 

The other link to Romualdez is via the directors in the joint venture representing his holding company, Prime Media Holdings Corporation. There are six directors in Media Serbisyo representing Prime Media’s 51% interest, while ABS-CBN has five directors representing the Lopezes’ 49% share.

The chairman of Media Serbisyo is Manolito “Mannix” Manalo, managing partner of the Ocampo Manalo Valdez & Lim Law Firm or OMLAW. A product of the UP College of Law, he is a fraternity brother of Romualdez in the Upsilon Sigma Phi. His firm provides legal services to Prime Media.  

Another director representing Prime Media in Media Serbisyo is Anthony Te. A former telecommunications executive, he was elected to the Philippine Stock Exchange Board in 2022 as a nominee of Armstrong Securities Incorporated. He is also on the board of two publicly-listed companies: Benguet Corporation and Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC), two firms partly owned by Romualdez’s holding firm, RYM Business Management Corporation (RYM).

Te is also on the board of a leading Philippine construction company, EEI Corporation, after Romualdez’s RYM bought a 20% stake in EEI from Yuchengco’s House of Investments.

Media Serbisyo’s treasurer, lawyer Jose Raulito Enoy Paras, is a senior managing partner at Andres Padernal and Paras Law Office. Like Te, Paras is also a director in Benguet Corporation, the Philippines’ oldest mining company. The Speaker’s son, Andrew Julian Romualdez, is a director in Benguet Corporation. Reginald Velasco, secretary-general of the House of Representatives, is an independent director in Benguet Corporation.

Lawyer Diane Madelyn Ching, Media Serbisyo’s corporate secretary, was an associate of OMLAW from 2010 to 2013. Aside from Prime Media, she is also involved with Marcventures Holdings Incorporated (Marcventures) and its subsidiary, MMDC.

Another director in Media Serbisyo, Rolando Santos, is a director and treasurer of MMDC. He is also a director, as well as senior vice-president for finance and administration of Marcventures. He also sits in the board of Bright Kindle Resources and Investments, another firm owned by RYM. Santos and Andrew Romualdez are also on the board of Bright Kindle.

Lawyer Carlos Ocampo, also a director in Media Serbisyo, is the founding partner of OMLAW.

Mapping the businesses of Speaker Martin Romualdez

Mapping the businesses of Speaker Martin Romualdez

Under the joint venture, ABS-CBN is responsible for content, while Prime Media handles distribution. 

Here are other facts about the joint venture, based on documents obtained by Rappler. 

Joint venture’s corporate name: Media Serbisyo Production Corporation

Parent company: Prime Media Holdings (51%) / Shares subscribed: P20.4 million 

Subsidiary/affiliate: ABS-CBN Corporation (49%) / Shares subscribed: P19.6 million

Directors from Prime Media: 

  • Manolito Manalo – Chairman 
  • Jose Raulito Paras – Treasurer
  • Diane Ching – Corporate Secretary
  • Anthony Te
  • Rolando Santos
  • Carlos Ocampo

Directors from ABS-CBN:

  • Maria Marah Faner Capuyan – President 
  • Marifel Gaerlan-Cruz – Assistant Corporate Secretary 
  • Roberto Barreiro
  • Martin Lopez
  • Carlo Lopez Katigbak

Source: Media Serbisyo General Information Sheet, August 2023 

Martin Lopez is chairman of the board of ABS-CBN, while his cousin, Carlo Lopez Katigbak, is president and CEO of ABS-CBN. 

Roberto Barreiro is chief partnership officer of the media and entertainment company. He has been involved in many of ABS-CBN’s content deals with various entities such as A2Z and TV5. These partnerships paved the way for ABS-CBN to show its popular entertainment shows on free television in the absence of a franchise.

Marifel Gaerlan-Cruz is assistant corporate secretary of ABS-CBN, while Marah Capuyan was the station manager of DZMM TeleRadyo before it was shut down. 

The politics of radio: New station DWPM Radyo 630 is born

The politics of radio: New station DWPM Radyo 630 is born
Ratings going up, says Prime Media

In a stock exchange disclosure on October 5, Prime Media said the ratings of DWPM Radyo 630, also branded as Teleradyo Serbisyo, have been going up since it was launched on June 30, following the closure of ABS-CBN’s news channel, TeleRadyo, due to financial losses.

Teleradyo Serbisyo, available on cable TV, is already starting to make a mark in the whole Philippines and in Metro Manila in particular, based on Kantar TV Audience Measurement (TAM) with ratings steadily going up within the third quarter of 2023,” the Romualdez holding firm said.

No specific figures were disclosed, and Capuyan did not respond to Rappler’s request for an interview. 

Prime Media said that Capuyan anticipates a shift to 24/7 operations from Teleradyo Serbisyo’s current 18-hour operation, and that it sees “future growth” for the broadcasting venture. 

Prime Media said the joint venture now has a “news exchange partnership” with nearly 30 regional radio stations nationwide “supported by cable subscriptions and various partnerships.” 

In an interview with Rappler, Ranjit Rye, an assistant professor at the UP Department of Political Science, said Romualdez’s FM radio network in the Visayas – Favorite Music Radio (FMR) – is a big plus for his survey ratings in central Philippines. FMR has expanded its presence and is now nationwide.

As indicated in a September 30 to October 4, 2023 survey of OCTA Research and Development on performance and trust ratings of key Philippine officials, Romualdez’s ratings are highest in his home region, but needs improvement in the National Capital Region and in Mindanao. 

The joint venture is a lifeline for ABS-CBN, which was ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission to stop its free-to-air broadcast operations in May 2020. It then saw its franchise application rejected by allies of then-president Rodrigo Duterte in the House of Representatives in July 2020. Mr. Romualdez, who was then House majority leader, and his wife, voted against a franchise renewal. ABS-CBN continues to be in the red after losing its franchise.

An investment deal with Manny Pangilinan’s TV5 that would have led ABS-CBN to having a minority interest in the Kapatid network was discontinued in September 2022 after legislators vowed to probe the deal.

After an absence of more than three years on free radio, ABS-CBN’s flagship prime time news program, TV Patrol, now airs nightly on DWPM Radyo 630, allowing it to get more advertisements.

ABS-CBN is still in the process of becoming a profitable company again by selling its content to various entities, including former rivals GMA and TV5. It also sells entertainment content to streaming platforms. – Rappler.com  

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.