SULU VISIT. President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the troops during his visit to the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Headquarters in Jolo, Sulu on July 13, 2020. Malacañang on Tuesday said Duterte was not referring to the Lopez family, which controls ABS-CBN Corp. when he claimed that he has “dismantled” the oligarchy without having to declare martial law. (Presidential photo by Robinson Niñal Jr.)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte was not referring to the Lopez family, which controls ABS-CBN Corp., when he claimed that he has “dismantled” the oligarchy without having to declare martial law, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that Duterte was referring to tycoons Lucio Tan, Manuel V. Pangilinan, and the Ayalas who earned Duterte’s outrage due to past issues, which have now been resolved.

Tan is chairman and chief executive officer of Philippine Airlines (PAL), Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investments Corp. owns a controlling stake in Maynilad, while Ayala Corp. owns a stake in Manila Water.

“He (Duterte) must be referring to the oligarchs which he named and he actually threatened to destroy but reconsidered,” he said in a virtual Palace briefing.

Roque said he understood who Duterte was referring to, based on his “prior contemporaneous statements.”

He said Duterte’s mention of dismantling the oligarchy just three days after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises junked ABS-CBN’s franchise bid was merely a “coincidence.”

“I believe so kasi palagi niya naman sinasabi sa mga talumpati niya na ang mga oligarchs na talagang siya mismo ang bumuwag. Eto namang kaso ng ABS-CBN, e kaso po na nag expire ang prangkisa at hindi po narenew ng Kongreso (because he has always mentioned the oligarchs which he personally dismantled in his speech. The case of ABS-CBN is a case of their franchise expiring which was not renewed by Congress),” he said.

In February 2019, Duterte cleared Tan of his past PHP6-billion tax liability, saying he would “forever shut up” on the subject.

His statement came after Tan offered an additional plane to fly home repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Kuwait.

Last May, Duterte apologized to Pangilinan and the Ayalas for launching a word war against them in relation to “onerous” water concession agreements, even threatening to file plunder charges against them.

Duterte ordered the crafting of a new and “better” concession agreements with the two water firms.

However, he thanked the two water firm owners for helping the national government in its coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response.

No cronies

Amid claims that Duterte destroyed oligarchs to replace him with his own, Roque denied anew that Duterte was at all cultivating his own set of cronies including Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy.

Roque said Uy has been “rich” since the very beginning since he owns a gold mining business in the town of Diwalwal in Compostela Valley.

“‘Wag ho nating isipin na yung kayamanan niya is because of President Duterte. Dati na po siyang mayaman (Let’s not think that he got rich because of President Duterte. He [Uy] is rich already),” he said.

He said Uy did not need Duterte’s help to build his fortune despite their being close.

“Kung akala niyo po yumaman si Dennis Uy, siguro po mas mayaman na siya ngayon pero simulat’-mula, mining po sila. So hindi na po sila kinakailangan tulungan ni Presidente para lumaki (If you think Dennis Uy became richer, maybe it’s true he’s richer now, but from the very start, they have a mining business. So there is no need for the President to help him earn more money),” he said.

Talks about Uy eyeing ABS-CBN surfaced after he formed the Udenna Communications Media and Entertainment Holdings Corp., which expands his business to the media and entertainment sector.

Meanwhile, he refused to comment on the statement made by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano that the congressional vote against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise was “simply part of this season’s uprooting of the weeds and a reclaiming [of] our patrimony from the oligarchs.”

Duterte himself has denied that he has started his own brand of cronyism in the country during his watch. (PNA)