MANILA – Malacañang is standing by its pronouncement that President Rodrigo Duterte was not referring to the Lopez family, who owns ABS-CBN Corp. when he said he has dismantled the oligarchy in a recent speech in Sulu because the Lopezes continue to be a “major player” in the industry.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said even if the franchise of ABS-CBN was not renewed, the Lopezes are still active in other business ventures such as Rockwell Land Corp. and First Gen Corp. among others.
“The Lopezes have not been dismantled. They have other businesses. They have First Gen. They’re still a major player. They’re the only player as far as Lopez PR & Marketing Group is concerned. They are still active in real estate. They still have Rockwell. What they lost is ABS-CBN and it’s because they have no franchise,” he said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.
Roque said the President should not be blamed for the network’s shutdown because there is also “documentary evidence” to show that it is a Congressional panel that denied to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN.
“We have to go by what the Constitution says. The Constitution says it is only Congress that can grant a franchise,” he said.
He said Duterte was only referring to oligarchs who he himself made public threats against such as tycoon Lucio Tan, Manuel V. Pangilinan, and the Ayalas who earned Duterte’s ire due to past issues.
“He’s not going to mince his words. When he challenged the water concessionaires, he said so publicly. Minura niya, sinabi niya ‘Pakukulong ko kayo (He cursed them, he said ‘I’ll make sure you end up in jail)’. He doesn’t have to hide under any cloak of anonymity when he wants to say something,” he said.
Duterte previously chastised Tan for his billion-peso tax liability but forgave him after he paid them and offered an additional plane to fly home repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Kuwait.
The President also threatened to file plunder charges against Pangilinan and the Ayalas over “onerous” water concession agreements, but also made amends after the two significantly contributed to the national government’s coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response.
“The difference is when he (Duterte) threatened to throw the Ayalas and MVP behind bars he did so because he can order a prosecution for failure to comply with the concession agreement,” he said.
He emphasized that the President never threatened the Lopezes with “jail time.”
Roque explained that Duterte’s outrage against Tan, Pangilinan, and the Ayalas only “softened” after they delivered at a “time of crisis.”
“As far as the oligarchs that he absolutely detested for cheating the people, the difference is they delivered at a time of crisis. Hindi ko naman maintindihan kasi (I don’t know) why ABS-CBN did not do that. I know you donated PHP2 billion of your own money but the rest you raised from your TV programs. But these two companies did it on their own,” he said.
Both Pangilinan and the Ayalas have donated billions worth of relief assistance, helped put up quarantine facilities, and provide medical supplies and equipment in the fight against Covid-19.
Roque said the President was “moved” by the apology of ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak for the network’s failure to run his political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I do not know why ABS-CBN could not have done more like what the Ayalas and MVP did,” he said.
Meanwhile, he refused to comment on an Inquirer report showing that the President’s speech in Jolo, Sulu edited out a portion where he did mention ABS-CBN before he claimed to have dismantled the oligarchy.
In a 40-minute audio recording of the entire speech acquired by the Inquirer, the President was quoted saying: “’Yun namang ABS-CBN binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag ako nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas. Ginawa ko. Without declaring martial law (ABS-CBN defiled me. But I said if I win, I will dismantle the oligarchy in the Philippines. I did it without declaring martial law).”
Roque said he was not present when the President delivered the speech and had no knowledge about parts of the speech being omitted.
“Unfortunately, I was not in Jolo…In so far as he has actually gone against the oligarchs referring to the water concessionaires and Lucio Tan I stand by that. I am not spinning. I am repeating what the President has said and he takes pride in he was able to somehow promote public interest,” he said.
On Tuesday, Roque said there is no policy to edit Duterte’s speech delivered in any of his scheduled activities before it can be aired on television.
No intention to make rich go poor
Insisting that the President did not have any cronies, Roque also clarified the portion of his speech where he addressed Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan saying he wanted his “friends” to “get rich.”
Political observers warned that this statement “smacks of cronyism”, but Roque disagreed.
“I think he’s referring to the business community in general because many of them are his friends. And he’s encouraging them to do more because if they get rich the country will benefit as well. I think that’s clear from the literal words. That it is not his intention to make the rich poor, he wants them to get even richer because there will be benefits,” he said.
Duterte himself has denied he is cultivating his own set of cronies by replacing those currently in power. (PNA)
By Azer Parrocha, Philippine News Agency