Four days after returning to the Philippines to face libel charges, actress Sarah Lahbati struck back at her accuser, GMA Films president Annette Gozon-Abrogar, and filed separate cases of grave coercion and perjury against the latter on Monday. The 19-year-old GMA contract artist filed her complaint of grave coercion on Monday morning at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court against Abrogar and four others, including Bebong Munoz, one of the heads of the talent management agency Icons. In the afternoon she filed a case of perjury against Abrogar at the Makati Regional Trial Court, claiming Abrogar had lied in her sworn statements when the latter filed her libel case there in January. “I think it’s time to defend myself to clear my name after all na nangyari. Nagsalita ako before. Ang nangyari nasampahan ako ng kaso… Dahil hindi ako pumirma sa icons ang daming di kanais-nais na nangyari,” Lahbati told media after filing the grave coercion case in Quezon City.
However, after filing the perjury case in Makati, she told reporters that she was open to an amicable settlement with Abrogar and that she remained grateful to GMA Network, which had handled her career since she won a talent show in 2009.
Lahbati had always claimed that her troubles with GMA Network started after she refused to sign a co-management deal with Icons last year, which would entail an additional 15 percent cut on her salary on top of the 25 percent due GMA Artist Center (GMAAC).
The Swiss-Filipino actress had alleged that Abrogar and GMAAC executive Arsi Baltazar had made the offer to her on Icons’ behalf. GMA Network said in an official statement that it was aware that such a practice had taken place and “penalties have been imposed on the executives who were found liable.” However, the statement did not identify the guilty parties and provide details of the sanctions. Nevertheless, it had insisted, “The Network found no proof of her allegation that there was an ‘under the table’ deal between GMAAC and ICONS Management.”
Unlike Abrogar and Baltazar, Icons did not to press charges against Lahbati after she aired her allegations in a series of Twitter posts in January. Meanwhile, Lahbati was evasive on the persistent rumor that the reason she had exiled herself in Geneva for six months was to give birth to a lovechild sired by her boyfriend, long-time GMA actor Richard Gutierrez.
“As I said, let’s not get distracted sa mga issues na walang kinalaman sa case. Di ko alam bakit nililihis, dini-distract, at ‘yun at ‘yun ang question. Isipin n’yo ano gusto n’yo isipin,” she told reporters with a smile.
Lahbati, who did not appear to have gained any weight since she left the country in mid-January, was accompanied by Gutierrez when she returned to Manila late Thursday. (Interaksyon. News)