by Perry Diaz
The Arroyo-Lopez War
Finally, after almost 80 years of a family feud between two wealthy clans,
seems that the final battle has started. On one side of the conflict is the
Arroyo clan, wealthy merchants of Chinese origin who gained political
in the early 1900's when their patriarch, Jose Arroyo, was elected Senator
1919. With the help of his close friend -- then Senate President Manuel L.
Quezon -- his younger brother, Dr. Mariano Arroyo, was appointed provincial
governor in 1928.
On the other side is the Lopez clan headed by Eugenio "Ening" Lopez who
newspaper El Tiempo -- founded in 1901 by his father, Benito Lopez, the
governor of Iloilo in 1906 who was assassinated two years later by a rival
political faction -- to expose the jueteng ring that Governor Arroyo and a
Chinese trader named Sualoy started in Iloilo. El Tiempo's incessant
of the jueteng operations finally paid off. Sualoy was charged, found
imprisoned, and then deported to China .
That was the beginning of the Arroyo-Lopez War. As a result of the
the jueteng operations, Governor Arroyo filed a libel suit against Lopez
Tiempo. Lopez retaliated by filing administrative charges against Governor
Arroyo. Governor General Davis was also informed about the case and he sent
Judge Francisco Moran to investigate. Moran discovered that Governor Arroyo
involved in the jueting operations including a gambling den. Consequently,
dismissed the libel charges against Lopez and his newspaper. In 1930, the
administrative trial found Governor Arroyo guilty of corruption and
General Davis relieved him from his post.
Humiliated, Jesusa Lacson Arroyo, the widow of Senator Arroyo who died in
picked up the pieces and moved her entire family to Negros Occidental. One
her sons, Ignacio, would become the father of the current First Gentleman,
Miguel "Mike" Arroyo.
Meanwhile, Eugenio Lopez progressed in business and his brother Fernando
into politics and was elected three times as Vice-President. Don Eugenio
established the first airline in Asia and expanded his newspaper business.
1962, he purchased Meralco, the country's largest electric company. His
Eugenio "Geny" Lopez, Jr., built ABS-CBN to become the country's undisputed
leader in broadcasting.
In 1972, the Lopez family suffered under the martial law regime of
Marcos. Geny Lopez was implicated in an alleged plot to kill Marcos. Under
obscure circumstances, Lopez escaped from detention and slipped out of the
country. Marcos' brother-in-law, Kokoy Romualdez, then took over Meralco.
Marcos was ousted in 1986, Cory Aquino returned Meralco and ABS-CBN to the
For more than 20 years, the Lopezes had undisputed control of Meralco. They
diversified into new business ventures. Over the past several years,
became a pain in the neck of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Their
of the various scandals involving the First Couple have contributed to the
Arroyos' negative public image.
It is no wonder then that Meralco is now in the crosshairs of President
sight. The joint congressional hearing chaired by Senator Miriam Defensor
Santiago and Congressman Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo has stirred into life a
family feud that has been dormant for 78 years. There were speculations
real reason for the Meralco "witch hunt" is for the government to take over
Meralco and break it up into smaller companies. If this would happen, guess
would take over a divested Meralco?
Let's look at someone who has been at the forefront of the battle: Winston
Garcia, President and General Manager of the Government Service Insurance
(GSIS). His aggressive and arrogant demeanor in the Meralco board room --
a recent member on the Meralco board representing GSIS which has 23%
of Meralco -- has made a lot of people wonder what his ulterior motive is.
believe that Garcia is on the board to wage a "proxy war" for the Arroyos.
For one thing, Garcia is not the typical government bureaucrat. He is a
a powerful political dynasty in Cebu with close ties to Malacanang. His
Pablo, is a congressman and concurrently Deputy Speaker of the House. His
brother, Pablo John, is also a congressman. And his sister, Gwendolyn, is
current Governor of Cebu . She announced recently that she is a candidate
Vice President in 2010.
In addition, the Garcia family has large stockholdings in the Aboitiz-owned
Visayan Electric Company (VECO), the country's second largest private
utility. The cor porate officers include three Garcias, to wit: Dennis A.
President and General Manager; Ramontito A. Garcia, Treasurer; and Jess
N. Garcia, legal counsel and Assistant Corporate Secretary. Of the 11
the VECO Board of Directors, five are Garcias, namely, Dennis N.A. Garcia,
Ramontito E. Garcia, Gil A. Garcia II, Charles Sylvester A. Garcia, and
V. A. Garcia de EscaÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¯ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¿ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â½o. The Aboitizes, have five members of the Board.
Recently, a news account reported that Winston Garcia is serving VECO as a
lawyer on retainer. The question is: What would VECO -- and Winston Garcia
stand to gain if Meralco were broken up into smaller companies?
It is also a common knowledge that the Aboitizes are business cronies of
First Couple. With the Lopezes trying hard to defend themselves from a pack
wolves, it would probably take a miracle to survive these attacks. But
do happen and they happen when it's l east expected to happen. And the last
final question is: What would the Arroyos stand to gain when Meralco breaks