CA rules dethronement of 2007 White Castle Girl invalid: Sa kanya dapat ang bahay, pera!

The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered Destileria Limtauco & Co., Inc., (DLC) to proceed with the awarding of the house and lot and the P150,000 cash prize that was not given to Gemma Gatdula, the winner of the 2007 Search for the Next White Castle Girl.

In a recent 30-page decision, the CA 15th Division denied the liquor company’s appeal on the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 100’s March 2015 ruling in favor of Gatdula.

Gatdula sued the company for the prizes forfeited after she was dethroned and replaced by “Wowowee” host R.R. Enriquez.

The company on October 10, 2008 terminated Gatdula’s talent contract citing her supposed “habitual tardiness, incessant complaints and lackluster performance in the White Castle Promotional Events.”

The CA said her dethronement was invalid as her lateness for only 2 rehearsals “cannot be characterized as repeated, usual or customary as to regarded as ‘habitual.’”

And while she allegedly wasn’t serious during the rehearsals and failed to memorize the dance steps and jingle lyrics for a December 2007 mall show, the CA noted that the company’s records found her performance in an April 2008 mall show to have improved for being “well-rehearsed.”

As to the charge of “incessant complaints,” the CA found only 1 public incident in which Gatdula got irritated with the town people during a photo-op session at a fiesta in Pangasinan.

Other cases involved private conversations with brand manager Nelby Oquendo, who was tasked with supervising Gatdula. But, the court said that while she could be seen as a “prima donna,” she showed “no willful refusal to obey” to be accused of insubordination.

“In this case, defendants-appellants failed to show that [Gatdula] did not ‘appear, attend and represent DLC products in any advertising or promotional activities sponsored or organized by DLC’ or committed any of the mentioned prohibited acts. Rather, defendant-appellants [DLC] merely claim that she performed her duties poorly or unprofessionally,” read the decision.

The CA also noted DLC marketing consultant Ma. Jessica Antonio’s admission that Gatdula was never asked to explain her side or given a chance to improve her performance or correct her attitude prior to her termination.

Also damning was the lack of evidence that “negative publicity resulted from these incidents, such that defendant-appellant DLC suffered prejudice in the sales or promotion, or its business reputation was publicly besmirched in the business community.”

The RTC earlier awarded Gatdula the house or its equivalent value, the unpaid cash prize of P150,000 plus 12% interest, and P150,000 in moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney’s fees and costs of the suit.

The CA decision penned by Associate Justice Rafael Antonio Santos imposed an additional legal interest of 6% per annum on all the monetary awards.

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