ABS-CBN, Meralco and Lopez family
By Cecilio T. Arillo, February 27, 2020 - Republished from The Manila Times
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.THE House of Representatives, especially its committee on franchises, would be making history if it rejects the demand of the oligarch-owned ABS-CBN Corp. to authorize its use of our Republic’s radio spectrum as a broadcast network.
The crowning glory of the Lopezes’ ostentatiousness was made during the 40th wedding anniversary of Eugenio Sr. and Doña Pacita in 1968, said the documents. Eugenio’s gift to his wife was a fabulous neckpiece of dangling emerald-cut diamonds, each stone evenly matched in size and weight with matching earrings and ring, all valued at more than P2 million. Guests numbered in the hundreds with the cream of the country’s society in attendance.
Some of Europe’s royalty who traveled at the expense of the Lopezes were billeted at first class hotels, driven around in limousines and toured [across] the country in chartered planes. Two bands, both from the United States, were hired for at least $100,000 and played throughout the night.
A showpiece was the fountain of champagne that was specially made for the occasion.
In a country that was starving for rice, the ostentatious extravagance of the Lopez wedding anniversary made the people blush with utter shame, the documents said.
It was not surprising, therefore, that the Lopez family was placed among the first 10 targets of Marcos when he declared martial law. In fact, the Lopez clan was considered the number one oligarch in the country at that time.
Making sure that the clan would not be able to launch a countermove, Marcos put in jail some of the Lopezes, closed the family’s tri-media network, and ordered the military to run Meralco.
When the Lopezes retook Meralco, ABS-CBN, and other corporations after the EDSA uprising, they claimed that they were victims of the Marcos regime.
But a set of documents gathered by this writer belied their claim, showing that they sold their Meralco shares without duress on Dec. 16, 1974 to Meralco Foundation Incorporated, which assumed the indebtedness of Benpres Holdings in Meralco Securities Corporation to foreign and local banks amounting to P101.1 million.
The deed of sale was guaranteed by the Philippine National Bank through a letter of credit it issued to the foundation for the purchase of the Benpres shares of stocks.
The foundation also assumed Benpres’ P9.5-million debt on stock subscription and an obligation to pay Benpres P48.6 million on its equity, payable by installment over a 10-year period at a 10-percent interest on the unpaid balance.
In other words, what this particular set of documents showed was that the Lopezes were not victims of martial law but were in fact beneficiaries of martial law when Marcos helped them out of their financial mess.
What was ironic was that the takeover by the Lopez family of the Meralco after the EDSA revolt was shrouded in mystery despite President Aquino’s avowed policy of full disclosure and transparency.
The same set of documents had this to say on the claim of the Lopezes:
“There may be some truth to the claim that the Lopezes were victims of the Marcos regime and they were only asking for what may have been taken from them in the past. But one important question must be asked: Why are the wealthy Lopezes favored over thousands of other victims of the Marcos regime? Hundreds of sons and daughters have been salvaged or been made to disappear and their families have not been compensated.
“Many ordinary people who resisted the Marcos regime have been tortured or disabled and they have not been compensated.
“Many small businessmen lost their businesses during those dark years and they have not been compensated.
“The government has limited resources and a long list of Marcos victims to be compensated — why do the multi-millionaire Lopezes get priority?
“Whatever happened to our much-touted fundamental option for the poor?
“It has been said so many times, that the dictator is gone, but the structure of dictatorship remains. The institutions and systems, which preserved the monopoly of political power and wealth of a few, are still intact.
“One manifestation of this continuing malady is the reemergence of the old oligarchies, the powerful and wealthy families that dominated the country before Marcos cracked the whip,” said the documents.