Juan Ponce Enrile’s Account on ABS-CBN during Martial Law

Commentary on his statement to Congressional Inquiry (June 17, 2020)

 

In a congressional hearing on June 17, 2020, Juan Ponce Enrile – the former National Defense Secretary during the 1972-1986 Marcos Administration – stated a number of points regarding the declaration of Martial Law and the closure of ABS-CBN in 1972. Sifting through the details of his speech we analyze a number of key points which are relevant to the topic.

Information Control

Enrile testified that the sequestering of ABS-CBN and various other media outlets was “part of national policy to immobilize and control the communication system and the outlet of information in the entire nation.”1 He remarked that this was done by the government to prevent “bloodshed” ahead of the implementation of martial law. “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.”

Marcos knew that control over information was an important key to consolidating power and preventing opposition to the regime. With the declaration of Martial Law, he indeed authorized the Press Secretary and Enrile, as Secretary of National Defense, to assume control over all media outlets.2 All of ABS-CBN’s assets were padlocked and seized by the administration, and Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr. was imprisoned without trial.3

The Taking of ABS-CBN

Enrile denied that ABS-CBN was “taken” from the Lopezes during Martial Law. “”The titles of all of these facilities were never transferred to the government. They remained with the owner…” He also added that sometime after, Eugenio Lopez himself asked the government to take both ABS-CBN and the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) from the family’s hands.4

It is important to qualify that at the same time that ABS-CBN’s assets were seized, multiple sources note that the Marcoses used the detainment of Eugenio Lopez Jr. to extort various demands from the Lopez family.5 It was in this context that several of their assets, including ABS-CBN, were sold to Roberto Benedicto – a known Marcos Crony with no media experience. While Enrile states that the titles of ABS-CBN were never transferred and while sources say that these were sold, it is also noted that the Benedicto group did not pay a single peso for its use.6 Representatives of the Lopez group sent to follow-up on this payment were also arrested and detained, with planted evidences, on charges of subversion.

Reopening of ABS-CBN

Enrile continues that ABS-CBN was re-opened “for purposes of being used by the government to broadcast information throughout the country”.7 The channel was then placed under the management of control Kanlaon Broadcasting and the Benedicto group of companies. This would be the status quo until the channel was restored to the Lopez Family in 1986.

While it is true that the ABS-CBN station resumed operations, it transmitted broadcasts under a different name and brand. Primitivo Mijares, who was part of the Media Advisory Council during Martial Law, noted that the use of ABS-CBN’s studios in Quezon City was indeed run under the Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS), which was the brand that was broadcasted and utilized on all of ABS-CBN’s channels by August 1973.8 ABS-CBN’s Channel 2 was also reopened but televised as the Banahaw Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

References

1 Enrile, Juan Ponce (17 June 2020), Speech delivered during congressional hearing on the ABS-CBN Franchise Renewal. Philippines. Quezon City, Philippines. Footage can be retrieved online from
Mercado, Neil Arwin (17 June 2020), “BREAKING: Enrile says ABS-CBN ownership stayed with Lopezes despite sequestration order”. Inquirer.Net.
https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1293117/breaking-enrile-says-abs-cbn-ownership-stayed-with-lopezes-despite-sequestration-order
2 Letter of Instruction on the “Prevention of the Use of Privately Owned Media Facilities and Communications,” (LOI 1), Malacañang, Manila, September 22, 1972
3 Francia, Beatriz Romualdez (1992). “Imelda: A story of the Philippines”. 3rd ed. Manila. 263.
4 Quismorio, Ellson (17 June 2020), “Marcos didn’t steal ABS-CBN from Lopezes – Enrile”, Manila Bulletin.
Retrieved from https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/06/17/marcos-didnt-steal-abs-cbn-from-lopezes-enrile/
5 Anastacio, Ellen Joy; Badiola, Janine Natalie (1 January, 2010). “The History of Philippine Television”. Thesis. UP-CMC Broadcast Department. Companion website available at https://pinoytvstory.wordpress.com/the-birth-of-philippine-television/
6 Mijares, Primitivo (1976). The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos”. New York: Union Square Publications. 273.
7 Enrile, Juan Ponce (17 June 2020)
8 Mijares (1976). “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos”. 273.