Duterte tags business conglomerates as ‘bedrock of PH oligarchy’

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday tagged the Ayalas and Lopezes as the bedrock of oligarchy in the Philippines that he claimed to have dismantled, citing alleged violations by companies owned by the family conglomerates.

The President’s statement was contained in the unaired portion of his July 13 speech in Jolo, Sulu, an audio file of which was obtained by media.

"Pero sa totoo lang (The truth is), I am extremely proud of myself. And I do not want to share that with anybody. I do not want anybody saying, whispering, 'Proud ako sa iyo' (I'm proud of you). Gusto ko, ako lang, ako lang ang proud, that I dismantled the bedrock, yung pinaka-poste ng oligarchy sa Pilipinas. Talagang inupakan ko," Duterte said.

(I want to take pride just by myself, that I dismantled the bedrock, the main pillar of oligarchy in the Philippines. I really hit them hard.)

"At nakatikim talaga ng mura na hindi talaga akalain. Yan, lahat, Ayala, si Lopez. Nagsulat ng apology. Sila ang minura ko, sila pa ang nag-apologize," he added.

(And they received curses they thought they'll never get. All of them, Ayala, Lopez. Wrote an apology. I was the one who cursed at them, yet they were the ones apologizing.)

A taped video of his Jolo speech that was broadcast Tuesday morning on state-run PTV4, as well as an official transcript of it did not contain these remarks.

"Without declaring martial law, sinira ko ‘yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit at hindi nagbabayad," Duterte said in the aired taped speech, without naming names.

(Without declaring martial law, I dismantled those who hold the economy and those who don't pay their due.)

The President’s tirade came 3 days after a House of Representatives committee voted against a new ABS-CBN franchise, fulfilling Duterte's earlier threats against the network.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing Tuesday noon that Duterte was referring in his taped speech to “Lucio Tan, Manny Pangilinan, and the (Zobel de) Ayala clan” and not to the Lopezes of media giant ABS-CBN.

On Wednesday, Roque said the President remains neutral "because the Lopezes are still up and about."

"The Lopezes have not been dismantled. They have other businesses – First Gen, real estate," he said in an ANC Headstart interview.

He also questioned the donation drive of ABS-CBN during the pandemic, which raised over P427 million in cash donations and pledges.

"The difference is they [Ayalas, MVP] delivered in time of crisis. Hindi ko naman maintindihan kasi why ABS-CBN did not do that. I know you donated P200 million of your own money but the rest you raised from your TV programs through your calls for donation but these 2 companies did it on their own. I do not know why ABS-CBN could not have done more like what the Ayalas and the MVPs did," he said.

The Ayala Group did not give a comment when asked for a statement on the President's remarks.

Sen. Bong Go, Duterte's former longtime aide, earlier denied that the chief executive was "pertaining to any specific case.

In the unaired portion of his speech, Duterte said the pressure he exerted against those he perceived as oligarchs stemmed from his anger over what they have done to the nation.

He said he would not grant a concession to oligarch-owned businesses even if it is legal.

"By the next 2 years, I will not give any concession at all, however legal ang kanilang application (their application is)," he said.

"Ngayon, after 2 years, 'pag paalis ako, 'pag wala pang nangyari, alis ako, at least nakita na ninyo, bahala na kayo. Bahala na kayo," he said.

(Now, after two years, when I step down, if nothing happens, at least, you saw for yourselves. So, it's all up to you.)

Duterte assailed ABS-CBN for allegedly depriving the government of taxes by having subsidiaries abroad.

"Alam mo, itong pangyayari ng ABS, sabihin niyo sa mga anak ninyo, tax free 'yan. All equipments ng ABS-CBN, tax free pumasok. Tapos ang titulo nila, 44 hectares. 44 square meters, Maria Ignacia, it’s supposed to be 44,000 square meters. Yung mga lokohan na," he said.

(You know, as to what happened to ABS-CBN, you tell your children, it is tax free. All equipment of ABS-CBN came in tax free. And their [land] title, 44 hectares, 44 square meters, Maria Ignacia, it's supposed to be 44,000 square meters. That sort of deception.)

"Tapos may mga holding company sa labas. Ganun din. Ano 'yung, ano 'yung inano nila ni Marcos. Sila rin. Cayman, tapos may holding company sa Hungary, dun nila binubuhos. Kunwari, may ano sila, may investment sila dun. Padala sila ng pera. Pero yung investment na yan, wala na. Yung pera hindi na yan babalik. Kaya walang taxes," he said.

(And then, it has holding companies abroad. It's the same as what the Marcos did. Cayman. It has a holding company in Hungary where they channel, as though, they have an investment there. They send money there. But that investment is gone. The money is not coming back. That's why, there are no taxes.)

During the ABS-CBN franchise hearings in Congress, the company refuted allegations of tax evasion and other corporate violations.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue, Philippine Economic Zone Authority, and Securities and Exchange Commission were among the government agencies that cleared ABS-CBN of any irregularity and delinquency before lawmakers.

Duterte told the troops in Jolo, however, that he had nothing to do with the shutdown of ABS-CBN, as alleged by a "white" official of a human rights group in the region.

"Sabi niya, ako raw ang nagpasara sa ABS-CBN. P***** i**, anong malay ko? Nagpasara niyan, Congress. A**h*** talaga ang gago. Ganun yung puti," he said.

(He said, I was the one who closed ABS-CBN. S** of a b****, how do I know? It's Congress that shuttered it. That dumb is an a**h***. White people are like that.)

On Dec. 3, 2019, Duterte, addressing ABS-CBN, said: "Ang inyong franchise mag-end next year . If you are expecting na ma-renew 'yan, I'm sorry. You're out. I will see to it that you're out."

(Your franchise will end next year. If you are expecting that it can be renewed, I'm sorry. You're out. I will see to it that you're out.)

In the same speech, Duterte also went after the Ayala-owned Manila Water, which he lambasted last year after an international arbitration court ordered the government to pay P7.39 billion in compensation to the water concessionaire for losses incurred due to denied rate increases since 2015.

"Bantayan ninyo yung isyu sa Ayala. The collection sa water treatment na nagbayad tayo, 1997 hanggang ngayon, wala. Then yung income tax nila, putang… Ang Pilipinas ang magbayad. At yung increase rates ng tubig, sila ang may kapangyarihan na increase o decrease," he said.

(Watch out for the issue about the Ayalas. The collection for the water treatment that we pay for, from 1997 until now, there's nothing. And their income tax… It's the Philippines paying for them. And they have the authority to increase or decrease the water rates.)

ABS-CBN's previous franchise expired on May 4 even as bills seeking to grant it a new 25-year license to broadcast have been filed in Congress as early as 2014.

Aside from affecting the livelihood of the company's more than 11,000 workers amid a bruised economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the shutdown of ABS-CBN is also seen by various sectors as curtailment of the people's right to information, as well as of press freedom.

news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.

This article first appeared on news.abs-cbn.com/