MANILA--The Lopez family legally reacquired possession of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. more than a decade after Ferdinand Marcos shut it down and seized control of the network in 1972, its lawyer told a congressional hearing on its application for a new franchise on Monday.
The family gradually took control of the company and its assets on the strength of an arbitration agreement with the Corazon Aquino administration, and which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1989.
Another arbitration agreement under the Ramos administration determined the "reasonable compensation" for the use of ABS-CBN's equipment and other assets from 1986 to 1992, said Arecio Rendor, one of the network's lawyers.
"Two adminstrations gave imprimatur for the return of the possession of ABS-CBN of its real estate properties and broadcast equipment," he said.
"And even the Supreme Court, one validating the agreement to arbitrate and another one for the factual circumstances, lends constitutionality to the return."
Rendor said the Lopezes never lost ownership of the broadcast company when Marcos seized it shortly after declaring martial law.
"What was taken from ABS-CBN was the mere possession of all its real estate and broadcast equipment," he said, citing a copy of the original title submitted to the Committee on Legislative Franchises.
Rendor also called attention to a lease agreement between ABS-CBN and RPN-9, then under Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto, dated June 8, 1973.
Since the agreement was a "lease," the document showed that the Lopez family didn't lose ownership of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., including its facilities and real estate, the lawyer said.
When Marcos was deposed and democracy was restored in 1986, he said the Lopezes allowed the new administration to make use of the facilities because of the persisting "emergency."
On April 17 that year, the family sought to reacquire possession of the broadcast company, paving the way for an arbitration agreement with the government on Jan. 6, 1987, said Rendor.
Two years later, the Supreme Court ruled on a petition and upheld the agreement.