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

Second of a series
Upon foreclosure, the Lopezes moved quickly, bidded for the companies and won them.

Bolinao became the precursor of ABS-CBN. The Lopezes then also acquired the Monserrat Broadcasting System and Chronicle Broadcasting Network and put them under the Benpres Holding Company.
In 1956, the Lopezes, after setting up a powerful relay transmitter in Mount Sto. Tomas, a forestry reservation, without a permit, mysteriously acquired the People’s Homesite and Housing Corp. (PHHC), a 4.4-hectare lot on Bohol Avenue, through a certain G. Palomar.

Photo from Google Images
The PHHC price was P14 per square meter with a downpayment of 10 percent and the balance amortized monthly over a period of 10 years.

In less than a year, the Lopez family requested the PHHC that the property be sold to Eugenio Lopez Sr. instead of the Manila Chronicle. The PHHC general manager, however, stated that the conditional contract of sale to Eugenio could not be approved due to several violations.
The government through its corporate counsel subsequently filed a case against the Lopezes. However, the PHHC and the Lopezes reached a compromise settlement that was approved by a court in 1966. Even without embellishment, said the documents, the normal course of events showed that the acquisition of the property was made with considerable stealth and malice, with the Lopezes using the media at their command to batter down any opposition to the transfer.

Later, Eugenio Sr. transferred the same property to the Bolinao Electronics Corporation, represented by Eugenio Jr.
Fernando Lopez was vice president during Quirino’s term, senator under Magsaysay, Garcia and Macapagal, and vice president again for two terms under Marcos.
The Gascon documents, marked “Case study of oligarchy-4,” said that although the general impression was that Fernando was a harmless, charming fellow, ignorant of his brother’s machinations, he was not actually that harmless and ignorant.
Fernando was a stockholder of Meralco Securities Corporation (MSC), and the brothers controlled MSC through shares of stock in their own names and under the names of persons they helped enrich. These were Roberto Villanueva, Pacifico Villaluz, Vicente Arenas, and Hector Moreno. The documents showed that Fernando and Eugenio were more than just brothers; they were business partners with Eugenio’s investments also being Fernando’s. Together, they owned Haciendas Antolanga, New Casalanga, and Pilar; Iloilo City College; Lopez Building; Paradise Stable; and Chronicle Building.

According to the documents, since Meralco was acquired by the Lopezes, it was transformed from a highly profitable organization distributing electric power to the Greater Manila area into a “hydra-headed monster that branched out into real estate, construction, petroleum refining, and the manufacture of electric goods and merchandise.”
It was said that the Lopezes could supply everything a person needed from birth to death.
Ever since the Lopezes took over Meralco, they were able to secure approval for several rate increases using their political influence in the Public Service Commission, at the same time raking in huge profits at the expense of the consumers.

Meralco was able to buy out several small franchise holders and also opposed several attempts made by the government to provide electricity to the surrounding areas of Metro Manila.
One particular document revealed that the profits derived by Meralco through successive power rate increases were used by the Lopezes in sundry undertakings far removed from the main business of Meralco.

The documents, found in a steel cabinet in Channel 4 during the 1989 coup attempt, said that Meralco, under the Lopezes, grew so huge that it defied the powers of the President, and any government attempt to curb its greed was called oppression or fascism. It resisted government efforts to collect legitimate taxes on its income and its imports, passing off its defiance as enlightened criticism of the government.
According to the documents, Meralco Securities Corporation violated provisions of the Internal Revenue Code when it did not report its true gross income. In 1969, MSC received regular dividends from Meralco amounting to P233,258,720. But MSC reported as its gross income only 25 percent of the amount or P58,314,680.

For its crude oil importation, Meralco brought a total of 32,583.65 metric tons but paid only P13,033.00 as specific tax.
Since 1965, according to the documents, the Lopezes had remitted abroad a total of $44,164,671.11 for payment of contractual obligations and services rendered by some people.
However one looked at it — the dollar reserves of the country were depleted considerably and the fact that only one family did it must be viewed as a grave abuse of power.
The Lopezes through their advantages were able to borrow a grand total of $245,353,906.95 from foreign financial institutions. Documents revealed that Romualdez inherited this huge indebtedness when he acquired Meralco after Marcos declared martial law in 1972.

Another set of documents revealed that Asunta Development Corporation, owned and controlled by a woman, said to be a very good friend of Fernando Lopez, was granted a special timber concession for over 6,000 hectares in Surigao del Norte, with an allowable cut of 13,000 cubic meters despite an appeal for reacquisition by the former concessionaire with the office of the President and defects in the Asunta documents.
Among these defects was that the application was filed in January but was executed before a notary public in June. The application was received on January 5, but the residence certificate of the applicant was issued on January 7. The license was issued in August but the application and license fees were paid in December. The foregoing facts, said the documents, showed a great deal of accommodation given to the woman.

As owner of Maro Enterprises, the woman got another timber license covering 12,000 hectares in Isabela. Several requirements were waived in her favor.
Again as owner of Pacific Timber Corp., the woman got a third concession covering 23,900 hectares in Quezon and Isabela provinces. Thus, her total timber grants reached 41,900 hectares. At that time, Fernando was the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
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 and written by multi-awarded journalist Cecilio T. Arillo.
Source and Original Article: >>> The Manila Times


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