President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday started his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) with a criticism of the Lopez family, which owns ABS-CBN Corporation.
"I am a casualty of the Lopezes during the 2016 elections," Duterte said.
He also criticized Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for supposedly defending the family when the latter said that not all rich families can be considered oligarchs.
Duterte also named Drilon as among individuals allegedly taking advantage of a "preoccupied government."
"Obviously he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs... media is a powerful tool in the hands of oligarchs like the Lopezes who use their media outlets in their battles with political figures," the President said.
Drilon, on the other hand, said he was protecting freedom of the press and the jobs of 11,000 ABS-CBN employees, not the Lopezes.
He added that he is not in any way indebted to the Lopez family as he denied Duterte's allegation.
"Wala po akong utang na loob sa mga Lopezes, wala po akong utang sa kanila at sila po ay kababayan ko ngunit maliban diyan ay wala naman kami pong pinagsamahan," Drilon said.
ABS-CBN lost its battle for a new franchise earlier this month when the House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted 70-11 to reject the network's application.
Malacañang has insisted that Duterte was neutral in ABS-CBN's franchise issue, but an unedited audio clip of his speech in Jolo, Sulu revealed him attacking the network as he boasted of dismantling "oligarchy" without declaring martial law.
Even after the full audio clip of the speech surfaced, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque still maintained that Duterte was not referring to ABS-CBN when he claimed to have dismantled oligarchy.
Before its application for franchise was junked, ABS-CBN had been repeatedly threatened closure by Duterte for not airing his campaign ads in 2016.
ABS-CBN was forced to resort to laying off its workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. —KBK/BM, GMA News