President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers a speech during the 11th Biennial National Convention and 22nd founding anniversary of the Chinese Filipino Business Club, Inc. at The Manila Hotel on February 10, 2020. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


By Rommel F. Lopez

“COVID, gutom at kawalan ng trabaho ng milyun-milyon nating mga kababayan ang problema hindi itong mga oligarchs, kuno.”

That’s how Sen. Kiko Pangilinan reacted to the latest pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte that he has successfully ‘dismantled’ the oligarchy in the Philippines without declaring martial law, four days after a House panel rejected the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

“Kaya ko mamatay, mahulog sa eroplano. I am very happy. Alam mo bakit? Without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controlled the economy of the Filipino people,” he said in an address with soldiers in Jolo, Sulu, Monday, July 13.

On Monday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported the biggest single-day jump in COVID-19 deaths in the country at 162 new deaths. It warned of further infections and fatalities unless “the people learn to live with the virus.”

As of July 15, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country was pegged at 57,545, second only to Indonesia with 78,572, the highest in Southeast Asia.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said in June that about 100,000 workers were laid off from January to June of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than a third of whom lost their jobs in June alone

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), in a June 5 report, said the DOLE figure is just a fraction of the 4.9 million who lost their jobs in April, out of the 7.3 million who were unemployed that month.

And things are not expected to get better.

Maybank Kim Eng analysts Chua Hak Bin, Lee Ju Ye and Linda Liu in their July 9 report titled “Labor Market: Retrenchments and Recovery,” projected the unemployment rate in the Philippines to hit as high as 18.5 percent this year —the highest in Southeast Asia.

A June 12, 2020 survey of the Social Weather Stations revealed that more than 4 million Filipino families have found themselves going hungry since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. two times more than those reported six months ago.

Pangilinan said that the so-called “oligarch problem” is “fabricated to cover up government’s dismal response in battling the COVID-19 pandemic and its ill effects, causing sufferings among millions of Filipinos.”

“Gawa-gawa lang yang problema ng mga oligarchs. Walang kinalaman ang pagsasara ng ABS-CBN sa matinding problema dulot ng COVID. Inimbento lang ang problema na oligarchs para linlangin ang taumbayan dahil sa totoo lang, wala silang maipakitang ni katiting na magandang resulta sa pagsugpo sa lalo pang kumakalat na COVID, sa gutom at sa kawalan ng trabaho ng milyun-milyon nating mga kababayan,” he said.

Pangilinan then posed the question, “Saan tayo maniniwala? Sa gawa-gawa lang o doon sa totoo lang?”