Duterte slams Lopez group anew for past DBP loans

Pia Ranada
Duterte slams Lopez group anew for past DBP loans

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President Rodrigo Duterte launches a fresh tirade against the Lopez family, warning he might 'start to dig' up information about how DBP loans obtained by their companies were written off

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte again gave the Lopez family a mouthful, slamming them for Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) loans granted to companies they owned which were written off by the government over a decade ago.

In a speech on Tuesday, September 17, in Malacañang, Duterte warned he would investigate the issue.

“The Lopez Group of Companies never paid a single centavo. It was condoned by the government. Who condoned it, who authorized it, I really don’t know, but maybe one of these days I’ll start to dig,” Duterte said in front of new government appointees.

The loans to Lopez companies were written off in 2006 or over a decade ago. It’s not clear if Duterte can still investigate the matter and what impact any investigation would have. Duterte, in the past, had also threatened to file cases of “economic sabotage” and “swindling” against ABS-CBN, but he has yet to take any concrete action.

What written-off loans? In 2006, the DBP wrote off P1.67 billion in loans given to various Lopez-owned companies at the time, according to an Inquirer.net report.

Specifically, the government financial institution wrote off P710 million in loans of Maynilad Water Services Inc, P591 million in loans of Bayan Telecommunications, P207 million in loans of Central CATV Inc, and P157 million in loans of Benpres Holdings Inc, the report read.

But the Lopez-owned companies were not the only big borrowers to benefit from written-off loans. Their companies made up 17% of the total P9.56 billion in loans written off by the DBP. 

The DBP was able to write off these loans because of the Special Purpose Asset Vehicle Act of 2002 which allowed banks to unload nonperforming loans more quickly. 

What else did Duterte say? The President’s tirade against the Lopezes did not end without him alleging media bias. The Lopezes own television giant ABS-CBN and had owned newspaper the Manila Chronicle.

“Why do you have to give away money to people who are rich? Tapos mag-publish ng newspaper (Then they publish a newspaper), with all their protestation and all their grievances for the poor. It’s hypocrisy,” Duterte said.

The President has threatened several times to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal. The network’s franchise expires next year, on March 30, 2020. Thus, the current 18th Congress is its last chance to keep operating past that date.

House Bill No. 676 and Senate Bill No. 981, which both seek ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, were filed last July and August, respectively. If the bill does not become a law, ABS-CBN will have to close down its radio and television operations. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.