EVEN before the declaration of martial law, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday bared before a joint congressional hearing that the Lopezes offered to former President Ferdinand Marcos the ABS-CBN and Manila Electric Company (Meralco) because of their difficulty to pay debts.
This was revealed by Enrile, then Defense Minister, during the virtual joint hearing of the House committees on legislative franchises and on good government and public accountability via Zoom application on the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation.
“Sila (Lopezes) na mismo ang nagsabi na kunin na ni Marcos or ng gobyerno ang ABS-CBN at Meralco dahil hindi na nila kayang i-service iyung kanilang loans. Nahihirapan na silang bayaran ang kanilang more than P100 million na loans,” said Enrile, a 95-year old lawyer.
“Napakalaki ng kanilang mga utang.”
“Even before martial law,” said Enrile when asked by Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, chairman of the House committee on good government, about the timeline of when the offer was made.
To support his statement and “prove everything,” Enrile advised House senior Deputy Majority Leader and Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla to get a copy of the “report written by Don Emilio Abello.” Enrile said the report was “signed by Meralco” executives, including the Lopezes themselves.
In the same hearing, ABS-CBN executive Jake Almeda Lopez admitted that his family faced financial problems even before the declaration of martial law.
“Tama si Johnny Enrile na we were concerned about the (financial) obligations,” Lopez, a friend of Enrile for about 70 years and a fellow 95-year old lawyer, told the joint hearing via Zoom.
“We even had to go outside of the country because the local ones were very adamant,” said Lopez.
Lopez recalled that the late ABS-CBN patriarch Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr. bought the network from the father of Philippine TV - Antonio Quirino, brother of former President Elpidio Quirino.
“As far as the DBP debts are concerned, this was a long, long time ago. Antonio borrowed money from government, hoping his brother will win in the elections. Unfortunately, he lost [his re-election] to [former president Ramon] Magsaysay,” said Lopez.
“Inutang niya (Antonio) iyung kwarta sa DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines),” said Lopez before the joint panel.
He also narrated that the network was first offered to the late Chino Roces, then the owner of Manila Times and Fred Elizalde of radio station dzRH before Geny Lopez finally bought it.
During last Monday’s hearing, the motion of Dumper party-list Rep. Claudine Bautista to investigate the alleged condonation by the DBP of the P1.6 billion loans made by the Lopez group of companies, which hold a considerable ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation’s shares, was granted by the joint panel.
Bautista said the joint panel should probe the matter to determine if the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation allegedly benefited from the condoned loans.
“I move that this committee include this matter as one of the issues to be tackled specifically whether or not ABS-CBN and the Lopez group of companies unjustly benefited from the loans condoned by the DBP to the prejudice of this government,” said Bautista.
Also in the hearing, Lopez said they took back themselves the ABS-CBN in 1986 because it was not returned to them.
“Hindi sinauli sa amin ang ABS-CBN. Kinuha namin, binalik namin sa sarili namin,” said Lopez.