MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday started his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) by attacking the Lopez family, branding the owners of Philippine media and entertainment company ABS-CBN as oligarchs, just weeks after his allies in a House panelo voted to deny its bid for a new broadcast franchise.
Less than 5 minutes into his annual report to the Filipino nation, Duterte claimed that he was a "casualty" of the Lopez clan during the 2016 elections - where he won the presidency by a plurality.
"Great wealth enables economic elites and corporations to influence public policy to their advantage. Media is a powerful tool in the hands of oligarchs like the Lopezes who used their media outlets in their battles with political figures," the President said in his address.
"I am a casualty of the Lopezes during the 2016 elections," he added before quickly shifting to discuss illegal drugs.
The President had threatened to reject ABS-CBN's franchise for supposedly favoring his political foes in the polls four years ago.
His threats were fulfilled by his allies in the House of Representatives on July 10 when 70 lawmakers in a House panel denied a new license for the network. Regulatory agencies testified in the House franchise hearings that the network has not violated any law.
The panel's decision was the final nail on ABS-CBN's free TV and radio broadcast business, forcing the network to close down businesses and let go of thousands of workers by end of August.
The rejection of a fresh broadcast license for ABS-CBN earned the administration public condemnation even though Malacañang had repeatedly insisted that the President was neutral about the issue.
The Palace even went as far as to hide a portion of the President's speech days later where he criticized ABS-CBN after it was denied a new franchise.
“’Yun namang ABS-CBN, binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag ako nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas. Ginawa ko. Without declaring martial law, sinira ko yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit sa tao at hindi nagbabayad. They take advantage, sa kanila political power,” he declared on July 13 or 3 days after the widely criticized congressional vote.
(ABS-CBN treated me like a pig. But I said I will dismantle the oligarchy in the Philippines. I did it. Without declaring martial law, I destroyed the people holding the economy and taking advantage of people, and are not paying dues. They take advantage of their political power.)
DUTERTE VS DRILON
In his SONA, Duterte also criticized opposition Sen. Franklin Drilon for supposedly taking a swipe at his children when the lawmaker reportedly commented on the President's remarks against oligarchs.
Following the rejection of ABS-CBN's franchise, Drilon, who leads the Senate Minority, challenged Duterte to ban political dynasties if the chief executive rally wanted to dismantle the oligarchy.
Drilon reminded the President that identifying an oligarch should not be based on wealth alone.
"You are an oligarch if you use your power to promote through the political system your own interest," Drilon, the Senate Minority leader, said.
The President during his SONA, however, took a swipe at Drilon, claiming that the lawmaker was among the figures taking advantage of a government pre-occupied with addressing the pandemic.
"In an interview, he arrogantly mentioned among others that oligarchs need not be rich. Then he linked the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy and the topic was my daughter and son," Duterte said of Drilon.
Three of Duterte's children are in government. His eldest son Paolo represents the first district of Davao City in the House, daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio is Davao City Mayor, while his youngest son Sebastian sits as the city's Vice Mayor.
"This happened after the Committee on Franchise voted 70-11 to deny the grant of franchise to ABS-CBN. Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs," he added.
The senator, in a statement Monday, said he was defending press freedom and not the Lopez family.
"I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes. The closure of the ABS-CBN sent a chilling effect. As I said before, for democracy to thrive we need free press and to allow journalists to exercise complete freedom to do their mandate of reporting facts without fear," Drilon said.
"I was defending the 11,000 people and their families who would lose jobs amid the pandemic, not the Lopezes," he added.
Drilon has filed the anti-dynasty bill in several Congress sessions, but the measure has failed to pass the legislative mill as most lawmakers are part of political dynasties.
ABS-CBN meanwhile has denied any wrongdoing, saying the network has never violated laws in its 65-year service.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.