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ABS-CBN, Meralco and Lopez family (First Series)

First of a series
Barely a few days after the Lopezes and the Cojuangcos had moved into the [Corazon] Aquino administration after the EDSA uprising that toppled the Marcos regime in 1986, the Lopez family requested President Aquino for the return of all the Lopez assets, including Meralco (Manila Electric Co.), which by then was under the First Philippine Holdings Corporation (FPHC).

Official documents showed that on April 17, 1986, the Lopez family, through its counsel Lorenzo Tañada Sr., also formally requested President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino “for the return of all the assets of the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation still under the possession of the Aquino government.” ABS-CBN at that time included TV stations 2 and 4.

In the case of the Meralco, President Aquino created a three-man board of arbitrators, specifically to render a final adjudication and settlement of the Lopez claim. The next thing the public knew, the Lopez family was already in complete control of Meralco, ABS-CBN’s channel 2, part of the Philippine Commercial and International Bank (PCIB) and other corporations.

In reaction to the Lopezes’ effort to also regain control of channel 4, then being operated by the government, a group of citizens led by former constitutional convention delegate Jose Luiz “Chito” Gascon filed a taxpayers’ suit in the Supreme Court questioning the creation of the three-man arbitration board.

Invoking a question of law, Gascon petitioned the high court for prohibition with prayer for the issuance of restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction. Nothing was ever heard of the suit again. Channel 4 eventually remained in government hands.
Official documents, including one titled “Summary of the answer of the Republic of the Philippines to the claim filed by ABS-CBN,” showed that “ABS-CBN’s right to compensation does not mean or compel the return to them of Channel 4 and the radio stations.”
The summary argued that the Lopez properties in question could not be returned without violating the spirit of the constitutional provisions that “the state shall regulate or prohibit monopolies when the public interest so requires” (Article 12, Section 19) and “Congress shall regulate or prohibit monopolies in commercial mass media when public interest so requires” (Article 12, Section 11).

“Reconveyance to (the Lopezes) of the subject properties,” according to the summary, “cannot reconcile with the constitutional provisions declaring oligarchy as subversive of the general welfare and public interest considering that claimants represent persons, families, clans, and entities who have controlling and dominating influence in newspaper, radio, TV, electronic utilities, banking, politics and related enterprises.”
The summary added that the reconveyance contemplated violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution: “Other parties whose properties were similarly confiscated by the previous (Marcos) Administration have presented their claims and yet have not been extended accommodations as the Lopezes had been.”
Documents recovered from Malacañang at the end of the 1986 EDSA uprising and from channel 4 during the Nov[ember to] Dec[ember] 1989 coup revealed an alleged intricate web of greed, corruption, machination and tax evasion involving the Lopez family that covered 10 presidents, from [Manuel] Quezon to Aquino, over a period of more than two generations.

In fact, when Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he used these issues (details of which are in the succeeding paragraphs) to prosecute the Lopezes and incarcerate many of them.
Lawyer Jake Almeda Lopez, who acted as spokesman when this writer sought the comment of the Lopezes, said the documents were specifically used by Marcos to destroy the Lopezes.

The documents said the Lopez family emerged from their provincial bailiwick in 1947 and began building its own empire with the acquisition, among other things, of the Manila Chronicle through the help of Roberto Villanueva who subsequently got involved in other organizations set up by the family.
To Don Eugenio Lopez, father of the Lopez clan and father of Geny (Eugenio Lopez Jr.), choosing the right politicians was to get ahead in business, the documents said.

When President Osmeña succeeded Quezon following the latter’s death in the US on Aug. 1, 1944, the Lopez family was among the first supporters of the new head of state. Grateful for their support, [Sergio] Osmeña appointed Fernando Lopez mayor of Iloilo City in 1945.
Then the Lopezes junked Osmeña and supported [Manuel] Roxas for president and [Elpidio] Quirino for vice president. For their support, Roxas named Fernando [Lopez] a senatorial candidate in 1947. After Roxas’s death, Quirino drafted Fernando, his running mate in the 1949 presidential polls, with both of them winning amidst charges of massive election fraud.
In 1953, the Lopezes abandoned Quirino and formed their own Democratic Party with Carlos P. Romulo as the presidential standard bearer. During the presidential election that year, the Lopezes junked Romulo and supported [Ramon] Magsaysay.

That support to Magsaysay marked the rise of the Lopez business empire, whose foundations were set up during the term of Quirino. Pressured by the Lopezes, Magsaysay ordered the foreclosure of the loans of Antonio Quirino, the brother of President Quirino, with the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Philippine National Bank. Among the corporations foreclosed were the Bolinao Electronics Corporation and the Alto Broadcasting System.

(To be continued)

Editor’s note: This series of articles exclusively written for The Manila Times was lifted with permission from Greed & Betrayal, a bestselling book published in 2000 by Amazon, one of the world’s largest publishing houses in the United States and written by multi-awarded journalist Cecilio T. Arillo.
Source and Original Article: >>> The Manila Times


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