MANILA — ABS-CBN workers "took back" the network from the control of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986, its former general manager said Wednesday, disputing claims that it was simply handed back by the succeeding Cory Aquino government — an issue raised in ABS-CBN's application for a new franchise.
The Marcos government seized the network in 1972 and passed it on to the control of his crony until 1986.
"Kinuha sa amin ng Marcos ang ABS-CBN… Hindi isinauli sa amin — kinuha namin, ibinalik naming sa sarili namin," said its former general manager Augusto "Jake" Almeda Lopez.
(The Marcos government took ABS-CBN from us. It was not returned to us. We took it back, we returned it to ourselves.)
In February 1986, ABS-CBN workers helped soldiers loyal to Marcos' former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Deputy Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos storm the network, he said.
"Andoon po kami, mga ABS people… Noong nagkakaroon ng putukan, isinara, nag-shut off ang operations ng television. Nagtago lahat-lahat ng mga tao. Madilim na madilim iyan," the 95-year-old Almeda Lopez told lawmakers via Zoom.
(We were there, the ABS people. During the gunfight, the television operation was shut off. People hid. It was very dark.)
"Napilitan kaming lumusob. Nagsisigaw kami roon, 'Lumabas kayo mga kasama namin, paandarin nating itong istasyon.' Lumabas sila. Within one hour, napaandar namin," he said.
(We were forced to barge inside. We shouted at our colleagues, 'Get out, let's run this station.' They came out. Within one hour, we had it running.)
Thereafter, the Cory government wanted the Lopezes to present proof that they owned the network, said Almeda Lopez.
"Sabi ko kay [Executive Secretary] Joker Arroyo, mahigit 20 years old na yang mga equipment na iyan, wala na kaming mga resibo n'yan," said the lawyer. "Parang impossible condition."
(I told Joker Arroyo our equipment was already 20 years old, we no longer have receipts. It was like an impossible condition.)
The 2 parties then agreed to settle the ownership issue through arbitration, which eventually allowed the Lopezes to regain control of the network, he said.
"If we went into arbitration, it was because of the desire of both parties... that let us present this to a neutral body and let them be the ones to tell us what to do," Almeda Lopez said.
The Lopez family allowed the new administration to use some of the facilities due to a persisting "emergency," network lawyer Arecio Rendor Jr. said in the previous hearing.
Almeda Lopez represented ABS-CBN in the agreement for the Aquino government to pay P97.5 million from March 1, 1986 to Nov. 6, 1992 or about P1.2 million a month.
The payment was non-cash and came in the form of tax and rental set-off. It covered the use of the ABS-CBN broadcast center in Quezon City and about 20 radio stations plus 5 or 6 television stations in the provinces, he said.
"That is just a token amount... Alam naman naming walang ibabayad ang Cory government, bagong-bagong pasok lang," said Almeda-Lopez.
"Hindi po isinauli sa amin ng Cory government ang istasyon. Kami ang nagpahiram sa Cory government," he said.
(The Cory government did not return ABS-CBN to us. We lent it to the Cory government.)
Almeda-Lopez is not related to the late ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr., but they were school friends. Almeda-Lopez first joined the broadcaster as its lawyer in 1961, served as its general manager 5 years later and built the ABS-CBN Broadcast Center in 1967.
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