Imelda’s “Fire Sale”

by Juan L. Mercado

This is not another column on sex videos. Sorry. O.K. if we  chat instead about  the axiom : “A   generation  which  ignores  history  has  no  past  —  and no future.”  

This came to mind  when  we read the Inquirer’s report:  Imelda Marcos  “turned on  it’s  head” accounts  of the  Marcos  dictatorship’s  takeover of  the  giant  Manila Electric Company.

This wasn’t a swap for release, from martial law detention, of Eugenio “Geny” Lopez, Imelda pouted.  Rather, Eugenio Lopez Sr. begged “Ferdie, three times, in 1973, to buy the family’s stake in Meralco, Imelda claimed.  The patriarch said it would be their contribution to the “New Society”.

Geny and Sergio Osmena II  burrowed free, on October 1, 1997, from their Fort Bonifacio maximum security cell.  They drove incognito, on to a Lingayen airstrip. There, a plane, with an Israeli pilot, chartered by Lopez’s brother-in-law Steve Psinakis stood, its props ticking over.

They scrambled aboard and received fake travel papers. Both then hopscotched their way to Hong Kong, Tokyo — and life as political refugees in the US. They returned only after People Power One chased the Marcoses into exile.

Twenty two years after that escape, Marcos, Don Eugenio and Geny are in their graves, But Imelda has come up with a fairy tale:  The dictatorship faked that escape.

Sa totoo lang (truth is) Geny was such a pest, as irritant, we deliberately made him kuno (like) escape,” Imelda told Inquirer. Para  wala nang ngawngaw (So there will be no more problems.)

Do we laugh? Or do we cry?  This  admits  hostaging  Geny for over five years –.after they took over Meralco. It’s also  a  confession of manipulating events by a dictatorship to get  any available fig leaf.  Or does delusion blur truth?

Listen to martial law jailor Juan Ponce Enrile. He claims: Manila Electric Company was “legally” sold  to government, i.e. the dictatorship.

No kidding? When? During martial law, Imelda and Enrile claim. Of course, .all laws then consisted of the dictator’s nod. Thus, Eugenio Lopez Sr. “sold”  the multi-billion peso Meralco for a down payment of P10,000. Balance?  “Payable when able”. This fire sale is the stuff of Guinness  Book of Records.

Under the “New Society”, the number of government corporations imploded from 32 to 93, Albert Celoza notes in his book:  ”Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines –The Political Economy of Authoritarianism”. Dictatorial fiat created 62.

This bloating  resulted from take-over of  “oligarch companies”  What were those?  Business owned by Marcos opponents, Celoza wrote. Among these was Meralco. “But this was for enrichment of (Marcos) friends, rather than efficient and fair use of resource.

Enrile’s view on Meralco’s sale rehashes his Kapihan sa Sulo statement (21 Sept. 2002) He asserted then, as now, that he could document this claim. We believe him.

He was a Rolex 12 member. Marcos honored 12 men for clamping on martial law. Enrile knew the dictatorships key transactions, including Meralco.

Enrile’s troops, in fact, padlocked  Geny. into  Fort Bonfacio. Did  throw away the key?  Now,  we have  Imelda’s belated  claim :  they  threw away the key for five years after the dictator took Meralco. It was only in 1997  they  “engineered” Lopez’s escape. Justice was the least of their concerns. They just wanted  to make the “New Society” stink less.

Gen. Gatmaitan and troops, earlier, took over Meralco. Benjamin  “Kokoy”  Romualdez and  his team arm-twisted  the  Lopezes to give up the firm. The late Antonio Ayala badgered Lopez Sr. to sign papers, drafted  by the dictatorship. They ranged from begging to be saved from creditors to a “desire to assist in “New Society” reforms. This is what Imelda now quotes. She doesn’t  blush  either.

Kokoy  always dangled release of Geny,  writes Raul Rodrigo in the book:  “The Power and the Glory” One such session took place during his December 1972 call on Eugenio Sr, then in San Francisco exile.

Ultimately, the Lopez patriarch agreed to turn over everything Marcos wanted “in exchange for the safety of my son and family” Meralco and MSC were handed over to Kokoys men in November 1973.  Roberto Benedicto took over ABS-CBN in June 1973.

But  even after  the Meralco ransom, the dictatorship   didn’t release Geny. Even  Eugenio Sir’s.  July 1974 bid to visit his son, in prison, floundered.  The Meralco sale was a “give away to save the life of my son”, Lopez Sr. told Philippine News reporter Nick Benosa in a New Year’s Eve interview.

In June 1975,  Lopez Sr. was rushed to California’s French Hospital, for prostate cancer recurrence. Marcos  ignored his deathbed message: Allow Geny to visit him under heavy guard. The patriarch  died July 6, two years before his son broke free —  which Imelda now claims they stage-managed.

“Duress”  was how Senator Joker Arroyo described this  “sale.” Duress is the polite version for a word imported from Scotland of 1555:  “blackmail”.  Free-booting warlords then exacted tribute in exchange for immunity from pillage.

Imelda would have us believe this shotgun sale was “legal”  But there is much law at the end of a bayonet. Ask Housewife Corazon Aquino. She learned that from bitter experience.

After people elevated her to the presidency, Aquino returned Meralco to the Lopezes. Duress didn’t legalize theft, she explained. Nor has the Seventh Commandment  — “Thou shall not steal” — been repealed.

Imelda hasn’t heard. She is 79 now. Is this the youth of her senility?

(E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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