Duterte trumpets success ‘dismantling oligarchy.’ Why it’s confusing for some

July 14, 2020 - 6:25 PM
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President Rodrigo Duterte during his televised address on May 25 (PCOO/Released)

President Rodrigo Duterte remarked that he can now die “happy” since he has supposedly dismantled oligarchy without declaring martial law.

The chief executive made this remark before the military in a speech delivered in Sulu on Monday.

“That’s why, for me, if I die, if my plane crashes, p**angina. I am very happy. You know why? I said, without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controls the economy of the Filipino people,” Duterte said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“Sinira ko ‘yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit. At hindi nagbabayad,” he added.

Duterte did not namedrop anyone but his remarks came days after a House panel denied ABS-CBN‘s application for a fresh franchise owned by the Lopez family, whose members do not belong in the list of the country’s top 20 richest individuals.

The president has previously threatened to shut down the network for supposed “bias” reporting and “swindling” but the media giant has denied such allegations.

Oligarchy, as defined by instructor Miguel Rivera of the Ateneo’s political science department, “is the rule of a wealthy few over an organization such as the State, such that their interests gain priority over the needs of the many or the common good.”

Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that Duterte was not referring to ABS-CBN but to taipan Lucio Tan of Philippine Airlines and the owners of the water concessionaires—Manny Pangilinan and the Ayala Group.

However, Roque admitted that he was not able to watch Duterte’s speech.

Political power

Some of those who heard and read the speech, however, noted that the chief executive’s remarks were inconsistent with his family’s long-held political power and offices. Oligarchies in history, on the other hand, characteristically have economic power but only stemming from political control.

A Twitter user pointed out that Duterte currently has three family members in a political position.

“Anong sinasabi mong binuwag mo ang oligarchy? Pati nga dynasty pinasok niyo din,” he wrote in response to news reports featuring the president’s remarks.

Duterte family of Davao City
Members of Duterte family in government: Sara, Sebastian, Paolo and President Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte’s eldest daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is the mayor of Davao City, while his eldest son, Paolo Duterte, is the representative of Davao City’s first district.

The president’s youngest son, Sebastian “Baste” Duterte, is the incumbent vice mayor of Davao City.

Additionally, the president’s father also held electoral posts.

“His father (Vicente Duterte) was once a provincial governor and the family had links with the powerful families in Cebu province, where his father was once mayor,” BBC News reported last year.

Rodrigo, before becoming a president, also became the local chief executive of Davao City for over 23 years beginning 1988.

An article by Nikkei Asian Review argued that the Philippine leader did not necessarily destroy the elites as he promised in his presidential campaign.

“President Rodrigo Duterte promised to destroy the Philippines’ elite. Instead, he chose his own,” the Tokyo-based business news site said.

It noted that Duterte has favored fellow Davao native, businessman Dennis Uy, and other old-money families despite his populist claims.