Two men, both titans in their own right, coming from two different worlds and two different backgrounds, far apart in personality and character, and even farther apart in their professions, seem to have gotten it wrong on a common issue.
Both were aligned where oligarchies are concerned. Both with a keen eye for the welfare of the poor and the greater masses victimized by oligarchies that control the economy. But on the question of slaying these behemoths, President Rodrigo Duterte, a lawyer and at one time a prosecutor, and F. Sionil Jose, a national artist and an award-winning author and writer, are both wrong.
Duterte recently said he had dismantled the oligarchies. No, he hasn’t. The better term was that these monstrosities were more likely defanged and tamed.
All it takes to resurrect a vampire already once dead and rejuvenated, only to be defanged once more, would be a presidency so gutless and so inclined to restore elitist oligarchies. We’ve seen that happen before. In the blink of an eye, Corazon Aquino exhumed and then restored ABS-CBN, reinstalling it to its high and mighty pedestal of influence, partisanship and bias.
To this day, only its franchise to operate radio and television media has expired and remains unrenewed. Its assets remain, and they remain as lethal. Its dummies, its tax havens and evasive ploys, its circuitous processes of shifting funds overseas, even its most politically biased and partisan talents, remain. Neither fines nor penalties have been levied. No one has seen the inside of a jail cell. Charges have yet to be filed. Meanwhile, justice remains essentially elusive.
Jose, on the other hand, said these abusive oligarchies perpetuate more than politicians. No, they don’t.
Oligarchies perpetuate, not in a vacuum free of political largesse, but in the same toxic slime that feeds and fattens politicians. There is an unholy parasitic alliance where one feeds off the other, mutually benefitting and mutually perpetuating. Oligarchs know the price to pay to restore their power and political influence. Like rats, they have enough squirreled away for it.
One still wields a print and online media operation skewed to destabilize governments it does not agree with. A landed family, however disenfranchised its principal politician is, still bankrolls insidious destabilization plots. A third whose spawn continues to seek elusive political power has yet to answer for questionable wheeling-dealing.
There is a fourth that still controls vast land holdings, initially granted through behest loans in the middle of the last century, and, then, through a blatant distortion of agrarian reform where farmer-beneficiaries were given pieces of paper in lieu of the land they tilled.
It is an oligarchy that consistently wields political power through a dynasty that’s ushered in two presidencies — a mother and son. It’s an oligarchy behind the killing of its own farmers, and one that predicated the untimely death of a Chief Justice, following large-scale bribery in the legislature, where its principal rechanneled billions to corrupt an independent branch of government.
Indeed, if there is one oligarchy worth dismantling, this fits the bill.