Duterte leaves graft probe on Lopez loans to Ombudsman

Published February 9, 2021, 6:58 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

It will be up to the Office of the Ombudsman to look into alleged irregular disposal of the loans of companies affiliated with the Lopez family, Malacañang said Tuesday. 

President Rodrigo Duterte

According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, President Duterte obtained information about the possible graft violations related to the loans of the Lopez group from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and would let the Ombudsman look into the matter.

“Kagaya ng sinabi po ng Presidente, na nakalap siya ng impormasyon na nagkaroon ng paglabag ng batas, ng ating anti-graft law noong nauna na binenta ng ABS-CBN sa isang SPAV (special purpose asset vehicle) ang kanyang mga ari-arian at naka-condone di umano iyong ilang mga loans niya sa DBP at na-acquire po muli ng ABS-CBN iyong mga same assets (As the President said, he got information that there was a violation of the law, our anti-graft law when ABS-CBN sold its assets to SPAV and their loans with the DBP were condoned. ABS-CBN allegedly acquired again the same assets),” he said during a televised press briefing.

“Pero ang sabi po ni Presidente, iri-refer na niya ang bagay na ito sa Ombudsman. So, Ombudsman na po ang magri-review kung mayroong cause of action for any violation of our anti-graft laws (But the President said he will refer the matter to the Ombudsman. So the Ombudsman will review if there is cause of action for any violation of our anti-graft law laws),” he said.

In a televised address Monday, Feb. 8, the President vowed to block the resumption of operations of  the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN network unless it settles its supposed unpaid taxes to the government. The broadcast network shut down its free tv and radio stations since its franchise expired last year.

Duterte said although Congress has the power to grant the broadcast network a fresh franchise, allowing the network to operate would be like giving a “prize” for committing a criminal offense. He mentioned the DBP allegedly condoned the loans of Lopez-affiliated companies.

“Unless and until mabayaran ng mga Lopez ang taxes nila, I will not — I will ignore your franchise and I will not give them the license to operate. Kalokohan ‘yan (That’s nonsense),” he said.

A House committee rejected the franchise renewal of the network due to violations of the law. The DBP previously denied allegations of irregularity in the disposal of the non-performing assets worth P1.6 billion of the Lopez group in 2006.