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Cavite lawmaker: Lopezes got ‘preferential treatment’ over other Martial Law victims

Why did a House joint committee hearing dedicate more than 3 hours looking into how the Lopez family reacquired ABS-CBN after Martial Law?

No, it’s not because the reacquisition itself violated the 1987 Constitution.

Apparently – at least according to Cavite 4th District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr – it’s because the Lopez clan supposedly “got preferential treatment” over other Martial Law victims. 

So many of them are still waiting for compensation, Barzaga said, and yet the Lopezes were able to reacquire ABS-CBN after the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. 

“[There is] the violation of the equal protection clause insofar as our discussion is concerned because there are so many victims of Martial Law! Unfortunately, they were not equally treated,” Barzaga said.  

“Preference was given immediately to ABS-CBN Corporation because immediately after the EDSA Revolution, they were able to get their properties and, at the same time, the government was able to pay them P97 million,” he added. 

Before it ceased operating in April 2018, the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board was able to compensate only 11,103 claimants out of the 75,000 Martial Law victims it found to be legitimate. With thousands of victims still uncompensated, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a resolution extending the validity of funds to compensate Marcos-era Martial Law victims until December 31, 2019.

When Barzaga was interpellating ABS-CBN legal counsel Arecio Rendor regarding details of the reacquisition, he didn't even raise the alleged violation of the equal protection clause. 

It seems Barzaga thought about this on the spot after Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez asked later on in the hearing why the committees were even discussing the issue in the first place.

Did anyone allege there's a constitutional violation?

Nope, admitted Anakalusugan Representative Mike Defensor, one of ABS-CBN's accusers.

Rather, this was supposed to be the first topic to be discussed in the joint hearings before ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III was to be interpellated about his dual citizenship.

On September 22, 1972, soldiers seized and padlocked ABS-CBN upon the orders of Marcos, who would later appear on national television and declare Martial Law. His first letter of instruction ordered the closure of all radio and television stations nationwide. 

ABS-CBN would reopen only in 1986 after the EDSA People Power Revolution toppled Marcos and forced his family to flee in exile to Hawaii. 

During the hearing, ABS-CBN’s lawyer Rendor maintained the Lopezes never lost ownership of the network when the Marcos government sequestered it in 1972.

"Hindi nawalay ang pagmamay-ari ng Lopez family sa ABS-CBN at mga broadcast facilities and equipment even from the time that Martial Law was declared until today. Kahit ang shares of stocks noong nagsimula ang ABS-CBN when it was incorporated ay hindi nawalay sa mga stockholders nito," said Rendor.  

(The Lopez family never lost ownership of ABS-CBN, its broadcast facilities, and equipment even from the time of Martial Law was declared until today. Even the shares of stocks when ABS-CBN was incorporated were not separated from their stockholders.)

It seems some of our honorable congressmen just wasted our time. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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