Days after ABS-CBN shutdown, Duterte celebrates ‘dismantling the oligarchy’

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — In a speech delivered to the military on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that he has successfully unseated the oligarchy sitting atop the Philippine economy.

"That's why, for me, if I die, if my plane crashes, putangina. I am very happy. You know why? I said, without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controls the economy of the Filipino people," he told troops in a mix of English and Filipino at Jolo, Sulu.

Oligarchs, originally a Russian term, refers to a small group of people in control of a country or government.

Though Duterte did not name anyone specifically, his comments come on the heels of an overwhelming 70 legislators at the House voting to deny ABS-CBN a new franchise and its 11,000 workers stable jobs amid the pandemic.

The president himself previously issued emphatic threats to shut down ABS-CBN for its alleged biased coverage and for failing to air all his election campaign ads in 2016.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, the president's political ally and running mate in 2016, used very similar language to the president's on Monday when he defended the widely criticized move to reject the network's franchise bid, saying it was about "reclaiming patrimony from the oligarchs."

"We simply put an end to the privilege of one family in using a public resource to protect and promote their private interest was part of the changes that the Duterte administration has vowed to bring to the country," he said in a Facebook post.

In a statement, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation slammed Congress' attempts at upholding the alleged violations held against the broadcast giant — despite government agencies saying otherwise — as disinformation. 

READ: Insisting on ABS-CBN's debunked 'violations' is disinformation from Congress — nat'l network

"I said, these rich people who milk the government and the people. Without declaring martial law, I destroyed those who control the economy and don't pay [taxes]. They take advantage of their political power... Every election, they're all in the same room. Around five people, they're just one family who talk amongst themselves, this is how they destroyed my country," Duterte said in Filipino on Monday.

READ: Does ABS-CBN have tax deficiencies, unpaid debts?

This, after Malacañang last Friday reiterated its claim that it was "neutral" on the issue of ABS-CBN's franchise. 

While the Palace has called the vote a "decision of [the] Filipino people," findings from a Social Weather Station survey suggest that four out of five Filipinos support ABS-CBN's franchise bid while over half of Filipinos saw the bid's denial as a blow to press freedom in the country.

READ: Most Filipinos support ABS-CBN franchise, many see rejection as blow to press freedom — survey

The House panel's decision has been slammed by Vice President Leni Robredo, some senators, rights groups and media workers, who saw it as an assault on press freedom and democracy.

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