MANILA--ABS-CBN lawyers on Monday spent hours defending before a joint House panel the broadcast company's return to the Lopez family after the Marcos dictatorship, a move an administration legislator admitted did not raise any legal question in its application for a new franchise.
"I don't think there was any issue on the constitutionality of the return," said Rep. Michael Defensor, vice chairman of the good government committee.
Defensor said a colleague had raised the matter only as part of discussions on the "history of the return" of the company, which was seized by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 and controlled by his crony until 1986.
"But as to the violation of the provision of the constitution, it was never raised," said the party-list congressman, who earlier accused ABS-CBN of violating the 100-percent Filipino ownership in mass media by issuing deposit receipts to foreigners.
The network's lawyers detailed how the Lopez family regained control of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. in 1986 through a process of arbitration, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga questioned why the company did not pay "a single centavo" to the Corazon Aquino administration when it was returned to the Lopezes.
But it was only right for the family to regain possession of the company seized soon after Marcos declared martial law and closed down independent media companies in 1972, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate later said.
"Para itong sitwasyon na ikaw na nga yung ninakawan, dapat ibalik sayo yung ninakaw sayo. Naaayon sa ating batas yan, natural man o moral na batas o sa ating konstitusyon," Zarate said.
"Mahirap naman na ikaw na nga ang ninakawan, ikaw pa rin ang pagbabayarin pag naibalik sayo yung ninakaw sayo. Hindi seguro nararapat yan at Walang hustisya dun."
Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said congressmen were "beating a dead horse" by tackling how the Lopez family regained possession of ABS-CBN.
He described the issue as "res judicata," having been settled long ago by an arbitration committee and the courts "and therefore it should not be pursued any further."