House Speaker Martin Romualdez's Prime Media enters deal with Teleradyo

by Jojo Gabinete
5 days ago
ABS-CBN old building demolition
Ang partnership sa pagitan ng ABS-CBN at Prime Media, na pag-aari ni House Martin Romualdez, ay nagpapaalala sa mga kaganapan noong martial law kung saan nawala sa mga Lopez ang ABS-CBN.
PHOTO/S: Jerome Ascano

Ramdam na ramdam ang matinding kalungkutan ng mga empleyado ng TeleRadyo dahil sa desisyon ng pamunuan na hanggang June 30, 2023 na lamang ang kanilang paglilingkod bunga ng nalalapit na pagsasara ng news channel ng ABS-CBN Corporation.

Inanunsiyo ito ng pamunuan ng ABS-CBN sa pamamagitan ng isang official statement na inilabas nila kahapon, May 23, 2023.

Bahagi ng pahayag ng ABS-CBN: “Since ABS-CBN can no longer sustain TeleRadyo’s operations, ABS-CBN is left with no choice but to cease the operations of TeleRadyo effective 30 June 2023 to prevent further business losses.

“The company is deeply saddened by this closure and having to part ways with the many passionate and committed people who have made TeleRadyo an important source of news and information for many Filipinos.”

Read: ABS-CBN to shut down TeleRadyo “to prevent further business losses”

Pero magpapatuloy ang operasyon ng TeleRadyo at ng DZMM, ang radio station ng Kapamilya network, dahil sa nabuong kasunduan sa pagitan ng ABS-CBN at ng Prime Media Holdings Inc. ni House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.


Si Romualdez ay pinsang-buo ni President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Ang Prime Media Holdings Inc. ang magiging majority stakeholder samantalang ang ABS-CBN ang minority stakeholder sa partnership ng magkabilang-panig sa TeleRadyo.


Déjà vu ang naging pakiramdam ng maraming Pilipino sa partnership ng ABS-CBN at ng Prime Media, lalo na ang mga nakasaksi sa mga nangyari nang ideklara ni former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, ama ni Pangulong Bongbong Marcos, ang batas militar noong September 21, 1972.

Hindi kasi nagkakalayo ang mga kaganapan noon at ngayon, pero magkaiba lamang ang sitwasyon at ang mga tauhang sangkot.

Limampung taon na ang nakalilipas buhat nang ipasara ni Marcos Sr. ang ABS-CBN noong 1973.

Read: Johnny Manahan to congressmen: "The Marcoses stole ABS-CBN from the Lopez family in 1973! Please do not steal it again!!!"

Sa librong Kapitan: Geny Lopez and the Making of ABS-CBN, na inilathala noong 2006, nabanggit sa isang kabanata ang pangalan ni former Ambassador Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, ang nakababatang kapatid ni dating First Lady Imelda Marcos at ama ni House Speaker Martin Romualdez.


Si Eugenio "Geny" Moreno Lopez Jr., na kilala rin sa tawag na Kapitan, ang dating presidente ng ABS-CBN bago ideklara ang martial law. Nang muling magbukas ang ABS-CBN noong 1993 ay nagsilbi siyang chairman hanggang 1997.

Naisalaysay sa libro kung paano napasakamay ng mga Romualdez ang ABS-CBN.

Nakasaad dito: “In December 1972. Marcos's brother-in-law, Kokoy Romualdez, visited Don Eugenio at his home in exile in San Francisco. Don Eugenio's son-in-law Steve Psinakis, was at that meeting. He said: 'It was blackmail, pure and simple.'

"The gist of the conversation was that, first of all, the family would not criticize the regime of Marcos. Then Mr. Lopez had to turn over his businesses without any complaints. Kokoy was always using Geny and the rest of the Lopez family still in Manila as his bargaining chip. Kokoy didn't say it outright, but the implication was clear: 'If you don't do it, I have your son in jail, your family is here, your brother is here, your other sons are here. If you don't play ball, if you don't do what Marcos wants, the matter is out of my hands.'


"Oscar Lopez later said: 'Geny's freedom was constantly dangled by Kokoy Romualdez before my father as the ultimate prize for accomplishing everything the Marcoses wanted from him.'

"Don Eugenio could see no way out of the Marcos blackmail. He agreed to turn over everything Marcos wanted. At the time, Meralco was worth P2.8 billion, PCIBank more than P1.3 billion and ABS-CBN more than P120 million. The other Meralco Securities Corporation were easily worth several hundred million more. In all of Philippine business, there was no prize greater than the Lopez conglomerate, which controlled assets worth more than P5 billion.

"Don Eugenio said later: 'I agreed with Governor [Kokoy] that he could take over all the assets of Benpres at no cost, in exchange for the freedom of my son and the safety of the rest of my family.'

"He told his friends: 'They can have everything, as long as they release Geny.' He added: 'The sacrifice of material things is easier to take than the sacrifice of the human spirit.... My wife and I have undergone immeasurable suffering, which parents who love their children can appreciate.'


"Geny said: 'That was the kind of man he was. He was a very generous person; he was not attached to money; he had the right values. And so it was not surprising that he signed over an empire that took years to build, which took all his life. He was willing to give it up if that was the price of my freedom. We gained a lot of strength and inspiration from his example. My father showed us the way, and we will not fail him. That was a value he imparted, and that is something that we are grateful for and we have lived for.'

"On December 10, Press Secretary Francisco Tatad announced the government's charges against Geny and Serge. On December 17, they were moved from Malacañang to Fort Bonifacio in Makati. The move was a sort of unwelcome compliment to the two. Bonifacio was the holding area for the prisoners considered the most threatening to the regime; Jose Diokno and Ninoy Aquino were there. Of all the detention centers in the country, Bonifacio was regarded as the hardest to escape from.


"With Geny in prison, Marcos began a process of wresting ABS-CBN away from the Lopez family. He had one problem: an outright seizure, particularly of an internationally known broadcasting network that owed millions to foreign banks like Citibank and Crocker National Bank, would wreak havoc on his intended image of benevolent, law-abiding visionary and patriot. So he had to provide some legal cover for his actions, and devising that cover took some time. He also had to deal with an internal competition among his cronies: both Kokoy Romualdez and Roberto Benedicto wanted ABS-CBN.

"For his part, Kokoy was willing to pay some amount for ABS-CBN—not its entire value, but enough to let the Lopezes come away with something in exchange for their investment. (During the martial-law regime, it was a simple matter for a crony to find a government bank willing to loan him the cash for the purchase price, and then to pay off the loan from the target company's cash flow over five or ten years.) Geny and Jake [Almeda Lopez] felt that a fire-sale price was better than no price at all. By this time, it was already clear that Don Eugenio would have to hand over Meralco for virtually nothing. So with ABS-CBN, Geny also had to make the best of a bad situation.


"Romualdez's lieutenants Cesar Zalamea and Tony Ayala formulated a sale agreement. They requested Citibank to carry out an inventory and appraisal of the ABS-CBN facilities in order to set the sale price. Citibank was chosen because it knew the company and its facilities; it had loaned ABS-CBN P19 million for the Broadcast Center, and it could not collect from a company that had been shut down. Citibank assigned John Leitch, a veteran of the US network CBS, to do the study.

"During 1967-68, Leitch had been a consultant to Geny and Jake during the construction of the Broadcast Center and was, therefore, intimately familiar with the network.

"On May 4, 1973, Leitch submitted his report, called the "Blue Book," to Kokoy. Oscar and Jake eventually agreed to Leitch's recommended price of P50 million. The equipment at ABS-CBN alone was worth more than that, but Geny and Jake had to agree. The thought of the sale weighed heavily on them. But what was most important to them was that the 1,200 ABS-CBN rank-and-file employees find some work. At least with a sale and the stepping aside of Jake and the other top executives loyal to Geny in favor of Kokoy and his men, the ABS-CBN employees would be taken back in.


"By late May 1973, all the agreements were signed, and ABS-CBN was scheduled to reopen under new management on June 15, 1973. But then a mysterious event intervened, forestalling the sale to Romualdez.

"Benedicto stepped in. Once, his KBS Channel 9 had shared the ratings cellar with MC Channel 13 and lost money. But no longer. In the nine months since the declaration of martial law, KBS ruled Philippine broadcasting, largely for lack of any real competition. By June 1973, the only things impeding the growth of KBS were its obsolete equipment and small studios. That weakness would soon be remedied.

"At the moment the Channel 9 studios were burning, both Benedicto and Alfredo “Peding” Montelibano, chairman of ABS-CBN and an old friend of Don Eugenio Lopez, were in Bacolod, their hometown. The two were close. Peding and Roberto Benedicto were colleagues in the guerilla movement in Negros. Roberto’s Father, Salvador, was Peding’s vice-governor, when Peding headed what was called Free Negros, the guerilla-controlled area of the province. It was through Roberto Benedicto that Peding became close to Marcos.


"Jake recalled: When Benedicto heard that KBS had burned, he asked Montelibano for the use of the ABS-CBN Broadcast Center. Benedicto mentioned that probably he would need three to four months to rebuild his KBS studios."

"Montelibano said later that he and Benedicto agreed to leave the question of rent for another time. Jake added: “What was most important [to Benedicto] was that KBS be allowed to operate immediately from the ABS-CBN studios. Montelibano gave his consent.

"On June 8, 1973, a Monday, Peding Montelibano called for a morning meeting of all the key ABS-CBS executives at Meralco. Among those present were Oscar Lopez and Jake Almeda Lopez. Peding told everyone present of the Benedicto offer. Jake talked about the impending sale agreement with Kokoy Bomualdez.

"He pointed out that the 1,200 ABS-CBN rank and file would once again be out of work if KBS took over. Peding replied that he had already committed himself to Benedicto. He added that there was no alternative; the government would just take over the station by force if the ABS-CBN management refused. Oscar was forced to say yes. But Jake walked out of the meeting rather than agree to the takeover.


"By noon of that same day, Peding signed a lease agreement with Jose Montalvo, president of KBS Channel 9, known as RPN. But the payment terms and the duration of the lease were left undetermined, to be settled at a future date. KBS could stay in the Broadcast Center “for such reasonable time as may be normally necessary, for the rehabilitation of RPN’s facilities.”

"That same afternoon, Salvador "Buddy" Tan, general manager of Channel 9, arrived at ABS-CBN with two vanloads of security men. The military turned the compound over to him. The very next day, the rest of the KBS people arrived.

"Jake said: "June 9, 1973 is known to us at ABS as ‘Looters’ Day.’ Starting at 8:30 A.M., KBS employees swooped down on the Broadcast Center. They staked their claims and fought each other for choice office spaces and furniture. They grabbed everything their arms could carry—typewriters and even ash trays. They never had it so good. Fistfights took place among them. It was as if a horde of hungry looters had descended on the place. It was a sample of things to come.”


Muling inilathala ng ANCX ang bahagi ng kabanata ng libro noong June 18, 2020, ilang linggo bago ganap na hindi pinagkalooban ng House Committee on Legislative Franchises ng prangkisa ang ABS-CBN noong July 10, 2020.

Read: Congress junks ABS-CBN franchise renewal

Sa artikulong may pamagat na “Ruthless people: How Marcos and his cronies took ABS-CBN from the Lopezes, ”detalyadoinng ilabas ang masasalimuot na pangyayari noong 1972 kaya nawala sa mga Lopez ang ABS-CBN.

Ito ang dahilan para magduda ang ilan nahindi kusang-loob at hindi madali para sa kasalukuyang management ng Kapamilya Network ang pakikipagkasundo na ginawa nito sa Prime Media Holdings Inc.

Samantala, nabanggit din ang pangalan ni Kokoy Romuladez sa isang bahagi ng artikulong inilabas ng Martial Law Museum website noong May 2020 at may pamagat na "The Second ABS-CBN Shutdown."

Nakasaad dito: “In the early morning of September 23, 1972, then Lt. Rolando Abadilla went to the Broadcast Center along Bohol Ave. in Quezon City to take over ABS-CBN. Earlier, the Lopez-owned Manila Chronicle, like all broadsheets, were padlocked. Like a fallen prey, two cronies immediately devoured the downed media giant.


"Kokoy Romualdez, Imelda’s favorite brother, took over the facilities of Manila Chronicle and came up with his own paper, The Daily Express[4]. Sugar king Roberto S. Benedicto took many of the television station’s equipment and came up with his own channel – Kanlaon Broadcasting Company (Channel 9). When a fire destroyed the KBS center the following year, they moved to the Broadcast Center and took over the entire building and all its equipment, known to ABS-CBN employees as Looter’s Day.

"Benedicto likewise used ABS-CBN’s channel (Channel 2) to form a new TV station – Banahaw Broadcasting Corporation (or BBC) [5]. Never was the Lopez family compensated for the takeover. To the contrary, in October 1979 the Lopez family was ordered to pay the government millions of pesos for tax arrears and fines.”

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Ang partnership sa pagitan ng ABS-CBN at Prime Media, na pag-aari ni House Martin Romualdez, ay nagpapaalala sa mga kaganapan noong martial law kung saan nawala sa mga Lopez ang ABS-CBN.
PHOTO/S: Jerome Ascano
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