Standing Up Against the Big Boys–for real or just for show?

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Is this for show or this is the real thing? If this is real, this is probably the first time any Filipino president had stood against the interests of oligarchs in this country, hence, worthy of adulation and praise.

However, if this is just to prop up the ambitions and chances for the presidency of a close Duterte associate, then, let the Heavens fall on those who continually fool the Filipino people! As what my good friend, the former Vice President of the Philippine Teofisto Guingona Jr. once said, ” You can fool the people once, but you cannot fool the people twice!”

No other president had the guts to stand up against the Ayalas, the Zobels, the Aranetas, the Rodriguezes, the Sorianos, the Benitezes, the Pangilinans and the Lucio Tans of this world. The thing is, though, this very president who bravely announced his intention to review and possibly re-negotiate the terms of an agreement with these water concessions had his own oligarchs whom he had lavishly taken care of, not to mention those close business associates as well of his daughter Davao mayor Sara Duterte and son, Pulong.

Everyone knows that Duterte is very close to Chinese businessman Dennis Uy of Davao who continues to gobble up businesses left and right. Uy used to be known as the man behind Phoenix, a middle-sized fuel outfit once tagged for smuggling several years ago. He has diversified so much these couple of years that we don’t exactly know how exposed he is now. Some say it is quite a feat handling all those loans which he entered into with banks, while others say he is the one playing someone else’s monies. Or so they say.

Uy is the man behind the third telco which promises to offer their services by next year. He is also into online gaming rivaling the Prietos and the Aranetas. He is into freight services, real estate, entertainment, media and even in the food business.

That explains why several observers say that maybe, just maybe, the Uys, the Gos and the Angs (and maybe Gokongweis?) of this side of the Pacific want nothing more than dominate the entire business community by targeting blue-chip companies such as Maynilad and Manila Water.

Is Duterte creating his own oligarchs? Or he is dead serious in taming the philistinistic appetite of these oligarchs on people’s monies?

Don’t get me wrong— Duterte stands on firm moral ground. What he is doing right now is, in the perception of the masses, is right on the dot. These water firms will find it extremely hard to defend themselves. How would you justify these exorbitant water rates when the very product itself came from the heavens and all you need to do is ensure that it goes straight to everyone’s faucet?

Water distribution is a blessing for these firms because all they have to do is make sure that those pipes and those engines are running efficiently. They haven’t even build world-class water facilities these couple of decades to justify a price hike. They still use the very same dams, the very same water pipes and pressure systems which the Republic had built over the years.

Let’s be brutally frank here— these water firms get humongous profits by exploiting the weaknesses of the people. How much improvement do these firms paid with their own funds for the past several decades? Did they even ensure that we have water security? Check and you’ll find out that areas within these concessionaires remain utterly underdeveloped. Leaking pipes remain unattended. Thousands of households remain without adequate supply of water, with thousands more with weak water pressure.

Duterte has the right as Chief Executive not to honor that arbitral award from a third party mediator, which is Singapore. It is his job as the President of this nation.

As a political observer though, I think that Mr. Duterte just sealed the last nail in his coffin. The last president who tried but failed to stand up against these oligarchs, and I am referring to the charismatic Joseph Estrada, got booted out from office.  Estrada’s ouster was a conspiracy of this country’s oligarchs to prevent him from prying into these onerous deals, which, we know only now to be those water concession agreements.

Duterte realizes this and that explains why he has deployed his close associates to ensure that he has the backing of the masses. The thing is, and probably he is blind to this–the very same people whom he considers his closest associates are themselves mired deep into several interlocking relationships and possibly projects with these oligarchs. One example is his Finance secretary who maintains a very close and intimate ties with several big tycoons of this country. His Bangko Sentral governor, his DOTr secretary, his labor secretary and even his trade secretary are all known to be close with these big names in the business community.

Even his generals are close to these oligarchs, both active and retired. Those who constantly mouth ideological slogans calling for the death of oligarchy, are themselves, in one way or another, tied either by consanguinity or by law with elite families.

This is one gamble, I hope this President is prepared to take to its logical end. He has just declared a war against these traditional oligarchs in the name of the young mavericks who are as hungry and as monopolistic as the old.

Of course, these are just fireworks and in the end, as what we have observed in our checkered history as a nation, these so-called “inter-oligarchical” battles are settled where they began–at the boardroom, with combatants getting their fair share of the war booty.  And the ones who would bore the brunt of these all–the very same people whom these men profess to religiously take care of.

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