SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Oligarchs old and new

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) – President Duterte doesn’t hate oligarchs per se. What he dislikes are those he perceives to have personally wronged him and those who wouldn’t bend to his wishes. This explains the rants and threats against the Lopez-controlled ABS-CBN television network, which concluded in the denial of the renewal of its franchise by the House of Representatives.

Soon after the House thumbed down the network’s franchise renewal, Duterte, during his recent visit to Jolo, bragged about destroying the oligarchs “without declaring martial law.”

What sounds disturbing with the president’s statement is his lingering view of martial law as a magic potion that could heal the country’s ills. No one bothered to remind him that, as far as the 1987 Constitution is concerned, it can only be invoked in times of lawless violence, invasion or rebellion…when public safety requires it.

(Note that this provision emphasizes that the state of rebellion or lawlessness must have reached a certain level of intensity or gravity which may require a derogation of some rights for a limited timeframe. Moreover, congressional concurrence is needed for a martial law declaration to be valid.)

It may be recalled that early in his term, Duterte also floated the idea of declaring martial law to deal with the illegal drug problem. He knew it was a silly proposition, but what he wanted to convey is his determination to get things done no matter the cost.

Going back to the issue of oligarchs, one may wonder why Duterte used the plural form when he was obviously singling out the Lopezes. The other oligarchs have remained on their perches, although some may be more privileged than others. At least one is a personal friend of the president’s. Another is a political ally whose son’s position in the Cabinet dovetails into his family’s real estate business.

Nothing is new about it. Ferdinand E. Marcos, the dictator whose remains (or maybe wax figure) Duterte allowed to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, used the anti-oligarchy line as one of his justifications for declaring martial law. Marcos did dislodge the old oligarchs only to replace them with new ones, many of whom were relatives by blood and affinity.

By a cruel twist of fate the Lopezes became a common target for both Marcos and Duterte. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at