âEconomic reforms needed to dismantle oligarchyâ
Without necessary structural reforms, Senator Franklin Drilon expressed fear that oligarchs would only be replaced by cronies of whoever is in power.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, File
‘Economic reforms needed to dismantle oligarchy’
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Dismantling oligarchy in the country takes structural reforms and an overhaul of existing laws, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

Without necessary structural reforms, Drilon expressed fear that oligarchs would only be replaced by cronies of whoever is in power.

“What is it in our legal system that makes oligarchy possible? To me, we must study that. Structural reform is necessary,” he said at a virtual forum.

The senator added that he is willing to work with the administration to review the current system and enact measures that can prevent all forms of oligarchy.

“I am willing to sit down with the Duterte administration to examine the laws that we have and find out which laws should be amended or which laws should be enacted (so) that we can remove or dismantle structures that made possible the oligarchy,” he said.

Drilon cited enacting an anti-dynasty law and reforming the political party system in the country as measures that can prevent oligarchy.

He said they are the oligarchs that the country must first rid itself of and that political dynasties allowed oligarchs to thrive.

For Sen. Francis Pangilinan, President Duterte just made up the “oligarchy problem” to divert the attention of Filipinos from his administration’s blunders in addressing the country’s problems, including poverty and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“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,” Pangilinan said.

The broadcasting giant recently failed to get a fresh 25-year franchise from Congress.

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.

If the government does not address institutional and legal constraints, the country will just replace one oligarch with another, according to the senator.

Sen. Sonny Angara said Duterte’s intention to level the playing field and promote equity in society was laudable, but the administration went overboard in shutting down ABS-CBN for its alleged violations.

“The thousands of employees who are set to lose their jobs and the small businesses who are offering their services and equipment to ABS-CBN are the ones to carry the burden (of the ABS-CBN closure),” Angara said.

“Many have also questioned the unfair treatment to ABS-CBN compared with other franchise holders who did not compete fairly. It would be best for the economy, in the creation of more jobs,” he added.

“Big businessmen who produce goods and services that benefit consumers, create many jobs, pay taxes and with strong corporate social responsibility should be celebrated and emulated. Those that violate laws should be prosecuted,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

Neutral

President Duterte observed neutrality on the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. maintained yesterday, while Malacañang scrambled to explain the Chief Executive’s tirades against the TV network and some businessman during a visit in Jolo.

“Yes, of course he’s neutral because the Lopezes are still up and about. They have First Gen, they have Rockwell, they have other businesses and, obviously, the one he mentioned about oligarchs did not actually happen to the Lopezes,” Roque said in an interview with ANC.

The Palace spokesman noted that the Lopezes still maintain other businesses despite Duterte’s actuations against the network.

The President could be referring to why the network failed to help the government in the construction of a water treatment facility, according to Roque, in an attempt to dissuade public minds that Duterte admitted openly during his speech last Monday how he was able to dismantle a powerful TV station without need for military rule.

“The problem is, as far as the oligarchs (are concerned)… he actually detested (the network) for cheating the people for not building the wastewater treatment facilities, the difference is they delivered at the time of crisis. Now, I don’t understand why ABS-CBN did not do that,” Roque said.

“I know you donated P200 million, but the rest you raised from your TV programs, through your calls for donations. But these two companies, they did it on their own. I do not know why ABS-CBN could not have done more like what the Ayalas and (Manny V. Pangilinan) did, so I guess, that’s the difference,” he added.

In the same interview, Roque opined that Duterte did not refer to the Lopez Group when he mentioned how he dealt with oligarchs when he became President in 2016.

Malacañang refused to release the full video of the transcript of Duterte’s speech in Jolo last Monday. The leaked audio supposedly belied the claims of Roque and the President’s trusted aide Sen. Bong Go that he did not attack the TV network – a few days after the House of Representatives rejected ABS-CBN’s franchise application.

“The President expressed that as far as the Lopezes are concerned, he was moved by the apology of (ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer) Carlo (Katigbak). He was moved because it’s unusual that someone of that stature from his family would actually publicly apologize and that’s why he accepted that apology,” Roque said.

He went on to explain Duterte’s tirades against business tycoons Manny Pangilinan and the Ayalas, but also acknowledged their big help to the government during the pandemic.

“Now, the MVPs and the Ayalas, as I was explaining, he had to forgive them because their actions at the time of pandemic softened, I guess, the position of the President. But unlike the Ayalas and the MVPs whom he threatened with jail time, I don’t think the President ever threatened the Lopezes with jail time,” Roque said.

Roque, who returned as presidential spokesman just a few months ago, laughed off his new title, “Master of Spin,” for always twisting and downplaying the President’s statements.

“I don’t know why! Because I will not comment on an alleged transcript that I do not have any personal knowledge of. I waived the options of going with the President to Jolo on that day with my duties as a spokesperson to conduct my regular press briefings, and I could not do both,” he said.

Slip of tongue?

Was it a slip of the tongue by Duterte in saying he destroyed an oligarch in the country without declaring martial law?

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman expressed belief that the President has just confirmed having a hand in the rejection of the franchise renewal application of ABS-CBN by Congress in making such a statement during his speech in Jolo, Sulu last Monday.

“Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano parrots his patron when he claimed that the demise of ABS-CBN is a triumph over the oligarchy. The dismal denial of ABS-CBN’s bid for a new franchise was pursuant to a personal and partisan agenda completely devoid of any ideological or doctrinal shift,” Lagman alleged in a statement.

Lagman, one of the proponents of the network’s franchise renewal, said ABS-CBN representing “big business” is only accidental.

“The evidence during the hearings showed that ABS-CBN has employed thousands of workers who supported its failed franchise renewal, has complied with its corporate responsibility, has rendered admirable public service through the years both in normal and critical times and has gained the enduring patronage of Filipinos,” he said.

The opposition lawmaker argued that the President’s claim that he has dismantled the “bedrock of oligarchy” was “a farce because the fact is he has barely scraped the surface of what he believes is oligarchy.”

Lagman said Duterte erred in automatically equating “big business” with “oligarchy” when there are essential differences between the two.

The congressman said “big business” refers to huge businesses and financial organizations that invest to help the government achieve economic development and in the process assure the return of their investments, while oligarchy perpetrates itself to capture and run government through chosen proxies.

“Oligarchy” literally means the “rule of the few” who control political and economic power by dictating government policies.Christina Mendez, Edu Punay

FRANKLIN DRILON
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