MANILA — The decision of lawmakers to reject ABS-CBN's franchise application Friday mirrored what happened to the Lopezes almost 50 years ago, when the government seized its assets during martial law, according to the family patriarch's son.
"My mom said it's so painful for her kasi nangyari na nga ito sa asawa niya, ngayon nangyari sa mga anak niya, so masakit talaga... Parang wake eh, parang may namatay talaga," said Ernie Lopez, executive director of Bantay Bata, one of the flagship programs of ABS-CBN's public service arm Lingkod Kapamilya.
(My mom said it's so painful for her because this already happened to her husband, now to her children.. it's really painful.. it's like someone died and we're grieving.)
Lopez said he unearthed a letter his father ABS-CBN's "Kapitan" Eugenio "Geny" Lopez Jr. wrote while then incarcerated for charges of allegedly conspiring to assassinate then dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“I have a letter from my father that he wrote to Pepe Diokno and to Lorenzo Tañada… it sounds like today’s situation. I was overwhelmed, nung binasa ko liham niya naiyak ako. Grabe ang pinagdaanan ng tatay ko noon… parang ganun pa rin nangyari ngayon."
(I have a letter from my father who wrote to Pepe Diokno and Lorenzo Tañada, it sounds like today's situation. I was overwhelmed when I read it, it made me cry. My dad went through so much, it's sort of like what's happening now.)
"The message kasi natamaan ako eh. Sinulat niya ito before they escaped. Tumakas ang daddy ko on a Friday night. Wednesday conjugal visit nya sa nanay ko," Lopez told Teleradyo.
(The message hit me. He wrote it before he escaped. My father escaped on a Friday night. Wednesday was a conjugal visit with my mother.)
Kapitan's letter as read by Ernie Lopez:
"[O]ver the past 4 and a half years of detention, this has developed within me a growing love for my country and my people. Could it be that suffering increases one's capacity to love? The leadership of this country is morally bankrupt. The overriding concern of Marcos is to stay in power by whatever means. This makes him an amoral person... There is a time in a man's life when he has to make a stand and even gamble his life for what he believes is a high and worthy cause... For me that time has come... I do know that my heart is in the right place, my motives are sincere and valid."
When martial law was declared by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, ABS-CBN was shut and the broadcast firm was seized from the Lopezes.
"Ang pagkakaiba ngayon, is at least not all of our assets were seized... and I’m thankful for that. But I think that there are moves, there are intentions and plans to confiscate... to get our assets but wala namang bago diyan eh.. nangyari na sa amin 'yan dati. May tiwala naman ako sa Panginoon. Alam mo 'yung nangyari kay Job, kinuha lahat sa kaniya pero bumalik sa kaniya doble. Nakita ko nangyari sa ABS, kinuha lahat sa tatay ko bumalik sa kaniya doble.." said Lopez.
(The difference now is at least not all of our assets were seized and I'm thankful for that. But I think there are moves, intentions and plans to confiscate our assets. It's nothing new. That happened to us in the past. We trust in God. You know what happened to Job? Everything was taken away from him, but when it came back to him it was doubled. I saw this happen to my father when they took ABS-CBN, and when it returned to my father, it doubled.)
Despite the rejection of its franchise bid, Lopez said ABS-CBN will remain "in the service of the Filipino."
"Ang maipapangako ko lang is sa puso ko, sa puso ng bawat kapatid ko, at naniniwala ako sa puso ng bawat isang Kapamilya, nasa service of the Filipino pa rin tayo, nasaan man tayo, wherever we are," he said.
(What I can promise is in my heart, in the hearts of my siblings, I believe in the heart of every Kapamilya, we are in the service of the Filipino wherever we are.)
Lopez admitted that the lawmakers' decision against ABS-CBN has caused pain to the family, but he hoped it would also serve as a lesson for them to "do better."
"Ang sakit talaga. Kung ang layunin nila ay saktan kami, they have achieved their objective. Nasaktan talaga kami. Ang dalangin ko lang for our company, our family, dahil sa karanasang ito, matuto kami. Anong kailangan namin baguhin? Anong kailangan naming gawin sa mas mabuting paraan? Wala namang perpekto sa mundo," Lopez said.
(It's really painful. If their intention was to hurt us, they achieved their objective. We were deeply hurt. My prayer for our company, our family because of this episode, we will learn. What should we change? What should we do better? No one in the world is perfect.)
Without a license to broadcast, Lopez said the company might go "fully digital."
"I do believe personally that we are going in the direction we were supposed to go and I do believe we are really supposed to go fully digital," he said.
ABS-CBN's shutdown came nearly 50 years after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos seized the network shortly after declaring martial law in 1972.
The Lopez family battled to regain the company's assets and resume broadcast soon after Corazon Aquino was swept to power during the 1986 Edsa Revolution that toppled Marcos.
Before Congress' decision today, President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly threatened to pull the plug on the network over complaints of partisanship in the 2016 presidential elections.