MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte on Monday boasted about successfully fighting oligarchs head-on without the need to impose military rule.
“Without declaring martial law, sinira ko ’yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit at hindi nagbabayad (I destroyed people who control the economy, oppress and do not pay taxes),” Duterte said in his speech before soldiers during a clandestine visit to Kuta General Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.
The government-run stations aired the edited and shortened version of the President’s speech only on Tuesday morning.
Although the President did not say it directly, he subtly compared his actions to the time of the late former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who imposed martial law from 1972 to 1986 and seized major corporations, including television network ABS-CBN.
Unlike Marcos, Duterte said he did not need to impose martial rule over certain businesses held allegedly by the country’s oligarchs.
“They take advantage sa kanilang (of their) political power,” Duterte said during his talk with the troops.
The Chief Executive also addressed Gov. Abdusakur Tan, who celebrated his birthday on Monday, to explain how some influential people supposedly chart the fate of candidates during elections.
“Ganoon ’yan, Sakur, ganoon ’yan. Every election noon o sa ngayon o bukas, sabihin nila sa isang kuwarto lang ’yan, ‘O padre, sinong kandidato natin ngayon? O ikaw diyan, ikaw ang bahala sa ano ha, you raise the funds’ (That’s how it is, Sakur, that’s how it is. Every election then or now or tomorrow, they meet in a room, choose their candidates and raise the funds),” Duterte said.
Since the government only aired portions of the President’s speech, it was not known whether he named the oligarchs he referred to. He felt “so much pain,” however, on how these people supposedly “played the nation.”
“Lima ’ata lang ang tao. Isang pamilya lang ang nag-uusap diyan. Ganun nilaro nila ang bayan ko (It’s just five persons, I think. Only one family talking in there. That’s how they played my nation),” he lamented.
Proud about exacting accountability from oligarchs, Duterte said he would die happy knowing he has done his part in making sure that he was able to address the issues involving these people with vested self-interests.
“Kaya ako mamatay, mahulog ’yung eroplano, p***** i** (That’s why, if I die, if my plane would crash), I am very happy. Alam mo bakit (You know why)? Sabi ko (I said), without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controlled the economy of the Filipino people,” he said.
Sought for clarification on the President’s statement later in the day, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the Duterte was not referring to ABS-CBN.
Roque said the Chief Executive was talking about his usual pet peeves: the Ayalas, Pangilinan Group and Lucio Tan.
The Palace spokesman said the President’s statement had nothing to do with ABS-CBN’s closure at all.
At a virtual press briefing at Malacañang, Roque agreed to a reporter’s query if Duterte’s statement came as a coincidence with the denial of the ABS-CBN’s franchise.
“I believe so, because he always mentions in his speeches the oligarchs that he himself really destroyed,” Roque said in mixed English and Filipino.
“The case of ABS-CBN is a case of an expired franchise which was not renewed by Congress,” he added.
Roque also dismissed insinuations that Duterte has his own cronies even as he relentlessly attacked water concessionaires and major telecommunication companies as well as major news outfits critical of his administration.
The presidential spokesman defended Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy, whose businesses range from pertroleum to digital start-up, casino franchise, a bakery chain, car dealership and water utility, among others.
“There’s none because Dennis Uy… They built their fortune because of mining and coal in Diwalwal. So no one can doubt that Diwalwal is gold-producing,” Roque said.
“So, let’s not think that (Uy’s) wealth was because of President Duterte. He’s been wealthy for long,” he added.
Fighting the corrupt, abusive
As Sen. Bong Go understands it, the President was not pertaining to any specific case but was talking about the impact of the administration’s continuing fight against corruption in his address to the military.
“He did not say who, anyway, but he was stressing that in the past years that we’ve been fighting the corrupt and abusive, it just so happened that the truth about the mismanagement of some groups or companies in the country emerged,” Go said in Filipino.
“We won’t let this pass unaddressed and we will make sure that wrongdoings are fixed so that we can finally eradicate corruption and abusive practices. Because of this fight, the oligarchy system in the country is dismantled little by little, without the need to declare martial law,” he added.
This fight against corruption and abusive practices stems from the President’s love for the country, according to the senator.
“I will continue to support the President in this fight in order to rid our country of corruption from top to bottom. If you love your country, you will defend it from all abusers, from the smallest to the most powerful, who do harm to our fellow Filipinos,” Go said.
“That is why when oligarchs, terrorists, criminals and abusive or corrupt officials try to harm or take advantage of the people, in the eyes of the President, they are the enemies who threaten our democratic way of life and he will not hesitate to fight them to protect the interests of the ordinary Filipinos,” he added.
For Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, hunger and loss of jobs are the urgent problems that confront millions of Filipinos now and not the so-called oligarchs.
Pangilinan was responding to media queries on his reaction to Duterte’s address to soldiers in Sulu that he has “dismantled” the oligarchy without declaring martial law.
The senator asserted that the “oligarchy problem” was just fabricated to cover up the government’s dismal response in battling the pandemic and its ill effects, causing suffering among millions of Filipinos.
“The problem on so-called oligarchs was just made up. The closure of ABS-CBN does not have anything to do with addressing COVID-19. The problem on oligarchs was just trumped up to mislead people because to be honest, they have nothing to show – not even a little good result in fighting COVID-19, hunger and the loss of jobs of millions of our countrymen,” he said.
On Monday, the Department of Health reported the biggest single-day jump in COVID-19 deaths in the country at 162 new fatalities. The DOH warned of further infections and fatalities unless “the people learn to live with the virus.”
As of Monday also, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country was recorded at 57,006, second only to Indonesia, which has the highest figure in Southeast Asia.
A total of 1,599 deaths and 20,371 recoveries have so far been reported in the Philippines.
The total number of coronavirus infections has more than tripled since June 1 when the government began easing stringent lockdown measures to restart the economy.
Sen. Joel Villanueva said institutional and legal arrangements that do not facilitate enough competition to challenge the market control of the few are to blame for oligarchy in the country.
“To equate the non-renewal of ABS-CBN to the dismantling of oligarchy is inaccurate. It has more negative effects on the economy and the business climate,” Villanueva said.
“To deny the franchise of a company which has no clear violations of our laws sends a signal that politicians can stop a business operation on a whim. This is not a conducive climate for investment and therefore contrary to public welfare,” he added. Cecille Suerte Felipe Paolo Romero, Edu Punay, Evelyn Macairan, Jose Rodel Clapano
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