MANILA, Philippines--Theirs is a family that sticks together.
In the jampacked (read: standing room only) Meralco Theater on Tuesday, members of the Lopez family made their presence felt, in support of Manila Electric Co. chairman and chief executive Manuel "Manolo" Lopez.
Good thing, too, as Tuesday's stockholders' meeting proved to be one for the books--in terms of length, excitement and the colorful personalities from all corners of the business, government and consumer sectors that attended the event.
Winston Garcia, president and general manager of the Government Service Insurance System, which holds the second largest stake in Meralco, and the Lopezes' staunchest nemesis-of-the-moment, was outspoken during the meeting, chiding Meralco employees for their lack of manners and their disregard for proper decorum.
This after a lot of booing and jeering from the audience, most of whom were Meralco employees.
Though not on his home turf, Garcia had his share of allies in the audience, led by GSIS legal counsel Estrella Elamparo, who never missed a beat in supporting his comments and in seconding his remarks about the employees' lack of manners.
Several others were one with Garcia in his cause, resulting in a heated exchange among a few shareholders.
Seemingly unable to hold back her emotions any longer, Gina, daughter of the late Lopez patriarch Eugenio Jr., stepped up to one of the microphones to defend the Lopez name.
Addressing the crowd of more than 1,000 people--and directing her comments straight to Garcia at the same time--she said comments besmirching the Lopez name were very offensive and had no basis.
"The statements about the Lopezes resorting to 'dirty tricks' have offended me and other members of the family. We've always lived with the principles of integrity and courage," she said.
She also said the Securities and Exchange Commission order preventing the recognition, counting and tabulation of votes by Manolo and five other Meralco stockholders and proxies under their names was totally unfair.
"The situation that the SEC is opting for is like not giving a voice to half of all the people here. It's not an election at all. Where's the democracy in that?" she said.
While staying out of the limelight, Lopez patriarch Oscar quietly gave his support to brother Manolo, sitting on one of the front-row, center-aisle seats, quietly enduring the near-chaos going on around him.
Past the lunch hour, Oscar even had to content himself with a piece of chocolate--passed around by one of the reporters covering the meeting--to tide him over.
Also providing moral support were Manolo's children Mike and Mark both of whom worked at Meralco; First Gen Corp. president and Oscar's son Federico "Piki" Lopez; and Manuel "Beaver" Lopez and wife Jackie Ejercito.