MANILA–The Lopez family did not lose ownership of ABS-CBN even if it was seized by the Philippine government under martial law, officials from the justice department and the President Commission on Good Government (PCGG) said Monday.
"The takeover was limited only to the possession and operation. It did not include ownership," Justice Assistant Secretary Nicholas Ty told a joint House committee hearing ABS-CBN's application for a new operating franchise.
Responding to questions by Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato, PCGG Commissioner John Agbayani agreed that the government's takeover of the network in 1972 was valid only for a "specific duration" that time.
"Yes, your honor, ABS-CBN did not lose ownership," Agbayani said.
Sato cited Letter of Instruction No. 1 issued by Ferdinand Marcos, ordering the military to "take over and control or cause the taking over and control" of media organisations such as ABS-CBN.
But the order, dated Sept. 22, 1972, limited the takeover "for the duration of the present national emergency or until otherwise ordered" by Marcos or his designated representative.
"So when the time comes, it is the responsibility of the government to turn it over to the rightful owners?" Sato asked, to which Agbayani replied: "You're correct."
Congressmen questioned ABS-CBN lawyers and executives for about 8 hours over how the Lopezes regained control and possession of the network and its facilities following the fall of Marcos in 1986.
The company detailed the process of arbitration with the government after its assets were gradually turned over to the family.