By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

President Rodrigo Duterte went off against opposition critics and “oligarchs” in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, accusing them of taking advantage of a “pre-occupied government.”

“My countrymen, it is sad that while the government focuses its attention and resources to battle the coronavirus, there are those who take advantage of a pre-occupied government,” he said before lawmakers at Batasang Pambansa.

Duterte branded Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon as a defender of the Lopezes who own the shuttered ABS-CBN Corp, whose franchise application was rejected by lawmakers earlier this month.

“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. This happened after the Committee on Franchise voted 70-11 to deny the grant of franchise to ABS-CBN,” Duterte said.

Earlier this month, Drilon said the lack of an anti-dynasty law in the country had allowed political clans to make government offices become extensions of their households.

He also said that an “oligarchy” cannot be established based on wealth alone, but also by using the political system for vested interests.

Duterte’s oldest son Paolo is a representative of the first district of Davao City. His daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio and youngest son Sebastian are Davao City’s mayor and vice mayor, respectively.

“Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs,” Duterte said.

Duterte vs oligarchies

The president claimed he became a “casualty” of the Lopezes during the 2016 elections. 

In December 2019, Duterte said he would see to it that ABS-CBN would not be granted a new franchise for not airing his TV advertisements during the 2016 election, and accused it of “biased” reporting.

“Media is a powerful tool in the hands of oligarchs like the Lopezes who used their media outlets in their battles with political figures,” he said during his penultimate SONA.

The oligarchs, he said, have been in control of the country since the Spanish colonial era.

“This is the oligarchy that controls the Philippines by taking control of the water and the electricity and power. ‘Yan ang oligarchy mo, Drilon,” he said.

On July 14, Duterte declared before troops in Jolo that he had “dismantled” oligarchy in the country without declaring martial law.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte referred to Lucio Tan, the Zobels de Ayala who control Manila Water and Manuel Pangilinan of telco giant PLDT and Manila Electric Co.

A full recording of the speech acquired by media outlets, however, confirmed he also mentioned ABS-CBN.

Malacañang has repeatedly insisted that since ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak publicly apologized to Duterte on Feb. 24, Duterte had become neutral on the franchise issue.