President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday opened his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) by attacking the Lopez family, branding the owners of Philippine media and entertainment company ABS-CBN as oligarchs, as well as Senator Franklin Drilon who defended the Lopezes.
The attack came just weeks after his allies in a lower House committee voted to deny its bid for a new broadcast franchise.
Less than 5 minutes into his annual report to the Filipino nation, Duterte claimed that he was a “casualty” of the Lopez clan during the 2016 elections — where he won the presidency by a plurality.
“Media is a powerful tool in the hands of oligarchs like the Lopezes who use their media outlets in their battles with political figures,” Duterte said in his SONA.
“I am a casualty of the Lopezes during the 2016 elections,” he added before quickly shifting to discuss illegal drugs.
Duterte had threatened to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise for supposedly favoring his political foes in the polls four years ago.
Apparently taking a cue from the President, his 70 allies in the House of Representatives on July 10 voted to deny a new license for the network.
Regulatory agencies testified in the House franchise hearings that the network has not violated any law.
The panel’s decision was the final nail on ABS-CBN’s free TV and radio broadcast business, forcing the network to close down businesses and let go of thousands of workers by end of August.
The rejection of a fresh broadcast license for ABS-CBN earned the administration public condemnation even though Malacañang had repeatedly insisted that the President was neutral about the issue.
The Palace even went as far as to hide a portion of the President’s speech days later where he criticized ABS-CBN after it was denied a new franchise.
“’Yun namang ABS-CBN, binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag ako nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas. Ginawa ko. Without declaring martial law, sinira ko yung mga tao na humahawak sa ekonomiya at umiipit sa tao at hindi nagbabayad. They take advantage, sa kanila political power,” he declared on July 13 or 3 days after the widely criticized congressional vote.
In his SONA, Duterte also criticized opposition Sen. Franklin Drilon for supposedly taking a swipe at his children when the lawmaker reportedly defended the Lopez family.
“Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs,” the President said.
ABS-CBN has denied any wrongdoing, saying the network has never violated laws in its 65-year service.
Several ABS-CBN workers and supporters, led by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, on Monday morning held a short protest in front of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address.
The individuals gathered on Mother Ignacia Avenue with their banners calling for press freedom, as seen in videos uploaded by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines./Stacy Ang