Gabby Lopez resigns from ABS-CBN
ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III
The STAR/File
Gabby Lopez resigns from ABS-CBN
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - September 24, 2020 - 11:43am

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 1 12:34 p.m., Sept. 24) — Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III resigned on Thursday from ABS-CBN Corp. for “personal reasons.”

In a statement following the network’s stockholders meeting, the media giant announced Lopez has stepped down as chairman emeritus and director of the network his father, Eugenio Lopez Jr., has built.

Apart from his chairmanship at ABS-CBN, Gabby Lopez also resigned from the same position at Sky Vision Corp., Sky Cable Corp., First Philippine Holdings Corp., First Gen Corp. and Rockwell Corp. “effective immediately.”

Shares at ABS-CBN gave up some gains hours after the announcement. They were trading up 0.43% at P7.03 apiece ahead of market close as of 12:33 p.m.

“We thank him for his dedication and leadership in expanding and transforming ABS-CBN beyond television through the years,” Kane Choa, corporate communications head at the network, said.

“Just like his father, Eugenio ‘Kapitan Geny’ Lopez Jr., Gabby is a visionary and compassionate leader driven by his love for the Philippines and the Filipino people. He would always tell the men and women of ABS-CBN that being a part of the network is not a job, but a calling,” he said.

Lopez resigned more than 2 months after the House of Representatives, dominated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies, denied ABS-CBN of a new 25-year franchise last July 5, voting 70-6.

In effect, the Lower House made permanent the shutdown of the network’s free TV and radio channels ordered by the National Teelcommunications Commission last May, a first since the Marcos dictatorship. Just early this month, NTC sealed ABS-CBN's broadcast closure with the withdrawal of the network’s frequencies to air.

Carlo Katigbak, president and chief executive, told shareholders on Thursday the network was forced to let go of “nearly 5,000 employees” to stay afloat. Those still on board, meanwhile, took heavy pay cuts.

“While broadcast television has allowed us to serve the most number of Filipinos and while the businesses and audience that we serve have felt the pain of the shutdown, TV is not our only platform,” Katigbak said.

Resources were also diverted to the network’s digital shift after closing down some non-core businesses like KidZania Manila amusement center in Taguig. That move is yet to pay off, with the balance sheet still in the red with P3.93 billion in net losses as of first half.

“Now more than ever, we can focus on our core capabilities: create programs that entertain, inspire and bring joy to the Filipino family and delivering news. We continue to face a difficult time in 2020,” Katigbak said. 

Sought for comment, Arielle Santos of Regina Capital brokerage, said the fruit of ABS-CBN's digital investments will take time to be felt. "It will take awhile for it to payoff. Most of its audience are actually from its free-to-air services," she said in a text message.

Not yet done

How Lopez’s resignation will affect Lower House’s treatment of ABS-CBN remains unclear. Following the franchise denial, Duterte’s allies in Congress have moved House committees to probe other matters related to the network. For instance, Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta asked the House justice committee to examine the validity of the network’s land ownership of its Quezon City headquarters.

The committee was supposed to have started deliberations on Marcoleta’s resolution last Wednesday, but did not push through. 

When the Lower House was hearing ABS-CBN’s application for a new broadcast license, Lopez’s US citizenship was among several factors questioned by lawmakers because for them, he was barred from owning a media company for being a foreign national.

But Lopez is not only a US citizen, he is also a Filipino by virtue of his dual citizenship, which the Constitution does not prohibit to own and operate a media firm.  — with Ian Nicolas Cigaral

ABS-CBN GABBY LOPEZ
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