Four days after the rejection of a new license for broadcast giant ABS-CBN, President Rodrigo Duterte celebrated his supposed success in "dismantling" oligarchy in the Philippines.
"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 on Monday, July 13, in front of soldiers in Jolo, Sulu.
(I can die, fall from a plane. I am very happy. You know why? Without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controlled the economy of the Filipino people.)
Throughout his speech, he appeared to make no mention of ABS-CBN. But the speech, aired only the next day, appeared edited.
But the aired version of the speech included a vague mention of powerful families who controlled Philippine politics by backing electoral candidates who favored their interests.
"Itong mga mayayaman na ginagatasan ang gobyerno at mga tao. 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," he said.
(These rich who milk the government and the people. Without declaring martial law, I destroyed the people who hold our economy and who don't pay. They take advantage of their political power.)
Duterte spun his crackdown on oligarchs as part of his greater 2016 campaign promise to weed out corruption in government.
He said flushing out corruption from the Customs bureau is small fry compared to stopping corruption at the highest levels of government.
"Ang corruption na bilyon, sa taas (Corruption in the billions is up there)," said Duterte.
Duterte has tried to justify his attacks on big business and media companies by saying they are part of his fight against "elites" who supposedly abuse their power.
This is the same narrative he spun when he threatened to scrap the concession agreements of water distribution companies run by the Ayala family and tycoon Manny V Pangilinan.
While he first issued the threat amid a water crisis in Metro Manila, he made good on it only after Ayala-led Manila Water won an arbitral ruling in a Singapore court that required the Duterte government to pay the firm millions of pesos.
He accused Rappler, a media news site critical of his administration, of being owned by foreigners, an allegation quickly followed by a slew of legal cases, including tax evasion charges. These charges have been refuted by Rappler.
While Malacañang has repeatedly claimed Duterte was "neutral" on the ABS-CBN franchise renewal hearings at the House of Representatives, the President had been threatening the network since 2017.
He has repeatedly accused them of "swindling" politicians, appearing hurt by how the network did not air some of his 2016 campaign ads.
Duterte was also displeased after ABS-CBN aired an advertisement paid for by former opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV during the campaign period. The ad showed him cursing, delivering his controversial rape remarks, and saying he is ready to kill.
ABS-CBN would later explain to senators that it was “duty-bound to air a legitimate ad.” – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.