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Former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile / ABS-CBN News

Lopezes offered ABS-CBN, Meralco to Marcos 

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Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told the House of Representatives that the Lopez family offered to the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos their companies ABS-CBN and Manila Electric Co. even before the former president declared martial law in September 1972.

The 96-year-old former defense minister of Marcos, considered the main architect of the military rule, made the declaration before the joint committee investigating the alleged violations of the television network ABS-CBN of its franchise, which expired on May 4.

“They themselves told Marcos or the government to get ABS-CBN and Meralco because they could no longer service their loans. They were having difficulty paying their more than P100-million loans,” Enrile, who appeared online, said in Filipino.

“Their debts were so big,” he said in Filipino, to which Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, chairman of the House committee on good government, sought clarification, and which Enrile amplified further, including the timeline “before martial law.”

Enrile also told Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla of Cavite that it would be best if they could get a copy of a “report written by Don Emilio Abello, signed by Meralco” executives.

The Lopezes are no longer the owners of Meralco, which has since been taken over by business tycoon and media mogul Manuel V. Pangilinan, who owns The Philippine STAR and its sister company TV-5, among others.

ABS-CBN executive Jake Almeda Lopez, who also happens to be a friend of Enrile and fellow 95-year-old lawyer, confirmed that his family had indeed been in dire straits even before Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

“Tama si Johnny Enrile (who was my friend for about 70 years) that we were concerned about the (financial) obligations,” Lopez told the panel, co-chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, chairman of the House committee on legislative franchises.

“We even had to go outside of the country because the local ones were very adamant,” he said, recalling that the late ABS-CBN patriarch Eugenio Lopez Jr. bought the station from Antonio Quirino, acknowledged father of Philippine TV and the brother of ex-president Elpidio Quirino.

“As far as the DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines) debts are concerned, this was a long time ago. Antonio borrowed money from the government, hoping his brother will win in the elections. Unfortunately, he lost to (former president Ramon) Magsaysay,” Lopez said.

“Antonio borrowed the money from the DBP,” he confirmed before lawmakers, adding the TV station was first offered to the late Chino Roces of the Manila Times and Fred Elizalde of dzRH before Geny Lopez bought it.

The Alvarez-Alvarado joint panel has approved the motion of DUMPER PTDA party-list Rep. Claudine Diana Bautista to look into the alleged “condonation” of about P1.67 billion in government loans to ABS-CBN, along with other Lopez-owned companies.

Bautista disclosed that the state-owned DBP had written off the loans it extended to the country’s largest broadcast network, including telco Bayantel and water utility Maynilad that were formerly owned by the Lopezes.

The condonation was done during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006, it was learned.

Lopez-owned firms that reportedly benefitted from the “condonation” were Maynilad (P710.8 million), Bayantel (P591.8 million) Central CATV Inc. (P207.10 million), then Benpres (now Lopez Holdings, P157.9 million), all totaling P1.667 billion.

These were the issues, among others, that caught the ire of President Duterte.

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