By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he was happy he had “dismantled” the oligarchy in the country without declaring martial law.

As to which oligarchs Duterte was referring to, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said the president referred to Lucio Tan, the Zobels de Ayala and Manuel V. Pangilinan.

“Without declaring martial law, sinira ko ‘yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit at hindi nagbabayad. They take advantage sa kanilang political power,” Duterte said before troops in Jolo.

READ: Good oligarch, bad oligarch: Duterte says Villars worked hard for their money

Duterte added he was ready to die anytime after dismantling the oligarchs.

“Ganun nilaro nila ang bayan ko. Kaya ako mamatay, mahulog ‘yung eroplano, p***** i**, I am very happy. Alam mo bakit? Sabi ko without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controlled the economy of the Filipino people,” he said.

Duterte in December 2019 threatened to file charges against Manila Water, a subsidiary of Ayala Corp., and Maynilad, partly owned by the Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp., over supposedly lopsided water concession contracts.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore ruled last year that the Philippine government must pay P7.39 billion to Manila Water for “breach of obligation” and other costs. In 2017, the government was also compelled by the arbitration panel to pay P3.4 billion to Maynilad.

Duterte apologized to Ayala Corp. Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and President Fernando Zobel de Ayala as well as to Pangilinan in May, saying help extended by the businessmen to the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic “humbled” him.

READ: Duterte to Zobels, Pangilinan: ‘Forgive me for my hurtful words’

The Zobels and Pangilinan accepted Duterte’s apology and said they were “committed” to help the country cope with the effects of Covid-19.

Coincidence?

Roque, in a Palace briefing on Tuesday, said Duterte was not referring to Lopezes, which own and control the shuttered ABS-CBN Corp.

Asked whether the timing of Duterte’s remarks on oligarchs and the denial of a House committee of ABS-CBN’s franchise application was a coincidence, Roque said: “I believe so.”

“He must be referring to the oligarchs which he named and he actually threatened to destroy but reconsidered matapos po, unang-una, si Lucio Tan nagbayad ng pagkakautang sa airport; pangalawa, si MVP (Pangilinan) Group at ang Ayala Group po, dahil sa matindi nilang pagtulong sa panahon ng Covid,” Roque explained.

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 period and its supposed “biased” reporting.

Since ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak apologized to Duterte, Malacañang has constantly insisted on its “neutrality” on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal application, even after it was denied by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on July 10.