MANILA — Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta claimed on Monday that the Lopez family "prematurely" took control of ABS-CBN in 1986 from the government prior to the completion of an arbitration proceeding that would have served as legal basis for the reacquisition.
During Monday's House hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise application, Marcoleta questioned how the Lopez family regained its control of ABS-CBN facilities in 1986 when a compromise agreement with the government was only finalized in 1995 or 9 years later.
"Siyam na taon bago nagkaroon kayo ng compromise agreement pero nakuha niyo na ang ABS-CBN in 1986 at nagsimula na kayo mag-ere September 14, 1986... What is the legal basis for prematurely occupying the facilities of ABS-CBN in the absence of the documents that would ratify the occupation?" Marcoleta asked one of the network's lawyers Arecio Rendor, Jr.
The company was seized by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 and controlled by his crony until 1986. When Marcos was deposed and democracy was restored in 1986, the Lopezes allowed the new administration to make use of some of the facilities because of the persisting "emergency."
Rendor said the Lopez family regained control of ABS-CBN in 1986 through an "agreement to arbitrate."
"Iyung agreement to arbitrate po na pinayagan po ni President Cory [Aquino]," said Rendor.
Marcoleta rejected Rendor's explanation.
"Mag-a-arbitrate pa lang eh. An agreement to arbitrate is not the arbitration itself or the arbitral award. It's not even the compromise agreement," said Marcoleta.
ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak interjected and read a portion of a Supreme Court (SC) ruling upholding the legality of the arbitration process, in which the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) recognized the Lopez family's ownership of the broadcasting company.
"The Lopez family is the owner of 2 television stations namely channel 2 and channel 4 which they have operated through the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp," the SC decision said as quoted by Katigbak.
According to the narration of events cited in the SC ruling, the Lopez family, through their then legal counsel Lorenzo Tañada, wrote to PCGG on June 13, 1986 requesting the return of the facilities of ABS-CBN.
In June 18, 1986, PCGG approved the request, but only the assets of channel 2 were returned on October 1986.
"Sa pagkaintindi ko po sa Supreme Court decision, 'yung agreement to arbitrate was for the return of other, the remaining properties of ABS-CBN [since] channel 2 had already been returned," Katigbak told lawmakers.
Katigbak said they will try to locate the PCGG ruling cited in the SC decision.
The Lopez family has maintained that the return of ABS-CBN to them after 1986 was above board and went through legal proceedings.
ABS-CBN was forced off the air on May 5 on orders of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), citing the expiry of its previous franchise on May 4. Prior to this, the NTC had committed to grant the network a provisional authority to operate while Congress deliberates on several bills seeking to give ABS-CBN a new franchise.
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