Lopez Sr. wanted Imee Marcos “hostaged” in US — WikiLeaks
By Jaime Pilapil
A prominent businessman has pleaded the United States government to
held ‘hostage” the eldest child of then president Ferdinand Marcos to
force the latter to free the political detainees, according to a
series of recently declassified US diplomatic cables released by
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was then working for
President Richard Nixon, sent a cable to Washington quoting Eugenio
“Don Eñing” Lopez Sr. to have suggested to the American government to
“hostage” Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos who was then studying at
Princeton University in New Jersey.
“Reference by Lopez, Sr., to Imee Marcos’ presence at Princeton,
asking how her parents would like it if the U.S. suddenly held her
“hostage”,” Kissinger said in a cable dated March 3, 1975 with
The German-born diplomat was so concerned that the suggestion of Lopez
“could again raise the security problems, which caused us difficulties
in the early period of her studies here.”
The young Marcos, Imee, went on to finish B.A. in Religion and
Politics at Princeton, one of eight universities in the Ivy League,
before returning home as chairman of Kabataang Barangay, which
practically plunged her into politics.
Just recently, the reelectionist governor of Ilocos Norte was tagged
by the Offshore leaks report as hiding part of the $5 billion, which
her father fled the country in the 1980’s in tax haven.
Kissinger cited a March 2, 1975 edition of Parade, a nationally
distributed Sunday supplement by Washington Post, carrying a full-page
article entitled “Extortion In High Places”, ventilating the Lopez
family charges against Marcos and the Romualdezes.
The article quoted Lopez Sr., who died in July 1975, that Marcos was
“holding Eugenio Lopez Jr, hostage in order to blackmail the Lopez
family into signing over their vast properties in silence.”
The former dictator had wanted Don Eñing to return to Manila to divest
him of his ownership of Meralco, then the largest corporate entity in
the country, and his other firms like the Manila Chronicle and
Chronicle Broadcasting Network, the precursor of television giant
In a bid to force Don Eñing to leave Boston, the former strongman had
implicated on trumped up charges against the Lopezes, including the
assassination plot allegedly engineered by the old Lopez’ son, Geny
who was jailed together with Serge Osmeña 3rd, grandson of wartime
president and son of senator Sergio Osmena Jr., who lost to Marcos in
the 1969 presidential elections. Under Geny’s leadership, also know as
“Kapitan”, ABS-CBN network became what it is now today, an influential
and leading broadcast business in the country. He died in June 1999 at
age 70. His son, Eugenio Lopez 3rd, also known as Gabby, succeeded
Geny and Osmeña, who was then a budding businessman, were imprisoned
in Fort Bonifacio in 1974 where they staged a hunger strike and
eventually escaped in 1979. The escape was made into a movie, Eskapo,
in 1995. Osmeña eventually married Isabel “Bettina” Lopez.
Before their escape, there was a suggestion to give amnesty to Geny
and Serge, but it was overruled by legal adviser Ronaldo Zamora,
taunted as one of the bright legal minds of the Marcos rule. Zamora
said the two were not eligible for amnesty since their alleged crime
was not political but ordinary crime.
The diplomatic cable said that Meralco then was worth at least
$20-million, but the Lopezes only received a “ridiculous” $1,500 down
payment. It added that the Manila Chronicle, a daily newspaper, was
forcibly leased to Philippine Ambassador to Washington Benjamin
“Kokoy” Romualdez, who was then also Leyte governor.
Already under Martial Law, Marcos and his cronies were in the brink of
transferring businesses from unfriendly traders to his cronies,
including, among others, Gilberto Duavit, Cesar Zalamea, Alejandro
Melchor, Juan Ponce Enrile, Roberto Benedicto, Placido Mapa, Geronimo
Velasco, the Ayalas and individuals whose family names were only
mentioned like Dissini and Angara, who comprise the new oligarchy in
the Marcos regime.
The cable told Washington that Marcos “has conducted his continuous
fight with the oligarchs with a persistent skill and toughness, but in
an atmosphere of growing charges of corruption and duplicity.”
Few months after the declaration of martial law, the public was wary
of the role of his wife, Imelda, her family and entourage.
“Our summary appraisal is that the concentration of economic power in
and around the Palace has progresses more or less without interruption
since martial law. While there is a strong and predictable tendency
of onlookers to see the process only as the enhancement of personal
wealth, and for many Filipinos to be fairly relaxed about the
process,” the cable said.
Aside from the Lopezes, other victims of Marcos was former Ambassador
to the US Ernesto Lagdameo who was pressured to give in the control of
Philippine Standard, an American-minority owned producer of sanitary
wares. A Palace group formed Fortuna Ceramics to buy out Lagdameo.
Also targeted by Marcos were the Aquino family businesses. Benigno
Aquino Jr. (1932-1983) was elected senator in 1967 and since then had
aimed his attacks to Marcos. Among the Aquino assets and interests
were the Pantranco, Hacienda Luisita and First United Bank.
As to the Osmeñas, Marcos belittled the Cebu-based family as it barely
own small-scale firms and the family was purely politicians.
However, Marcos was advised to deal “generously” Serge Osmeña because
he needed his support in dealing with Malaysians over Sabah issue
since the Cebuano “has residual claim” to Sabah. However, this issue
was not explained thoroughly.
In the case of the Lopez businesses, there was a need of skillful
maneuvers “because they are large and very leveraged.
The cable said the book value of Meralco and Benpres was around $1
billion in 1972, of which more than $800 million represented debt,
mostly to US entities.
Romualdez took over Meralco while Benedicto had taken over the
television and radio networks.
In January 1975, the government, through Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile,
took interest in Luzon Stevedoring, which was a good prospect because
it had been an excellent growth company. Dislodged shareholders were
Don Marshall, an American, the Puyat family, and employees of the
The Marcos dictatorship had also placed its men in various mining
firms like Marcopper, Atlas, and Benguet.
In banking, the government had direct acquisition of shares in
Development Bank of the Philippines, Philippine National Bank,
Veterans Bank and even the Government Service Insurance System.
Brandishing that the main reason why he declared martial law was the
attempt to his life, Marcos ordered the reinvestigation of the charges
against Lopez Jr., Serge Osmeña, and 11 others, including Don Eñing
and American Amcit Lehman.
The case dragged on with no formal charges filed against the suspects.
The American embassy was so concerned that then US Ambassador William
Sullivan sent several cables, saying several Americans were also
implicated to the assassination plot.