MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte was referring to "the business community in general" when he said he wanted his "helpful friends" to get rich, Malacañang said Wednesday as it denied that the chief executive was practicing cronyism.
"'Yung kaibigan kong tumutulong, 'pag yumaman ka nang yumaman, mas maligaya ako (My friends who are helpful, if you get richer and richer, I will be happy)," Duterte said in a speech in Sulu last Monday.
"Tutal ako, happy na ako sa buhay ko (Anyway, I'm already happy with my life). But I want you to get rich. But we have to talk because there is so much that we can do business," he continued.
Asked if the President's remarks can be considered as cronyism or the practice of giving undue advantages to friends and family, Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said: "I don't think so."
"He's referring to the business community in general because many of them are his friends and he encourages them to do more because if they get rich, the country will benefit as well," he told ANC.
"I think that's clear from the literal words used by the President — that it is not his intention to make the rich poor. He wants them to get even richer because there will be benefits for everyone," he said.
Duterte in the same Jolo speech said he had "dismantled" oligarchs without declaring martial law, just days after a House committee dominated by his allies rejected the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corp.
A video of the speech aired by government TV station PTV-4 the following day did not mention ABS-CBN.
However, an audio recording of the whole speech showed that Duterte took a swipe at the network, saying: "Yun namang ABS-CBN binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag ako nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas."
(ABS-CBN sullied me. But I said if I win, I will dismantle the oligarchy in the Philippines.)
Roque also said Duterte is "neutral" on the network's franchise woes despite the latter's remarks against ABS-CBN.
"Documentary evidence shows it was Congress who actually threw out the franchise application of ABS-CBN," he said.
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