MANILA — The Philippines' defense minister during martial law denied on Wednesday that ABS-CBN was "taken" from the Lopezes, saying the broadcast company's ownership has always remained with the family even during the dictatorship.
"The titles of all of these facilities were never transferred to the government. They remained with the owner, hindi po totoo 'yung sinabi ni Jake Almeda Lopez na inagaw ni President Marcos 'yung ABS-CBN," former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile told a congressional inquiry on ABS-CBN's franchise on Wednesday.
Enrile was referring to former ABS-CBN general manager Augusto "Jake" Almeda Lopez, who said in the same hearing that he, together with other people, "took back" the network from Marcos forces in February 1986.
According to Enrile, sequestering ABS-CBN and other television and radio stations was "part of national policy" to prevent "bloodshed" ahead of the implementation of martial law in September 1972.
"[I]t was the agreement of the government to prevent bloodshed in the country... We closed channel 2, the entire facilitates of ABS-CBN... all the radio stations throughout the land in order to control the situation so that there will be no reaction or opposition to the declaration of martial law," Enrile said.
"It was part of national policy to immobilize and control the communication system and the outlet of information in the entire nation," he added.
The Marcos government seized the network in 1972 and passed on control of the network to Marcos crony, Roberto Benedicto, until 1986.
Enrile said the government utilized ABS-CBN's broadcast assets until 1986 when Marcos was deposed through the people power revolt.
"Now, in 1986, to be exact February 26... I, as secretary of national defense and sequestrator of ABS-CBN and all the other television, radio and communication facilities in the country, I issued the order to lift the sequestration of ABS-CBN and that was the last time that I had any contact and involvement with ABS-CBN," Enrile said.
The House committees on legislative franchises and good government is currently tackling ABS-CBN's bid for a fresh 25-year franchise.
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 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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