Public welfare not served by crackdown on private sector

"President Duterte should listen to the pleas of the many families who depend on ABS-CBN to earn their keep."

Are President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent diatribes against private corporations serving public interest and public welfare?

Apparently not, if we look closely at the possible impact of his recent rampage against the media conglomerate ABS-CBN and water concessionaires Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc.

The inevitable result of the shutdown of ABS-CBN if its franchise is not renewed is to throw 11,000 workers out into the streets, unable to support their families and facing an uncertain future. And all this because Duterte said the media outfit “swindled” him by not running his election campaign ads even if he had already paid for them. If indeed that happened, why retaliate by leaving thousands of their management, employees and talents, not to mention service contractors, without jobs? Wouldn’t that be simply inhumane and cruel?

Duterte has also threatened to shut down the two water concessionaires in Metro Manila and send their owners to jail for what he alleges are onerous provisions in their contracts that are grossly disadvantageous to the government. He even wants the military to take over the management and operations of the water firms. What? Will deploying army privates and staff sergeants to operate water distribution facilities lead to more efficient water supply to communities, particularly those that already suffer from low water pressure, if they get any water from their taps at all?

But there’s an even bigger reason for the private sector to be very anxious—afraid, very afraid even—of what the administration is capable of doing.

It’s the adverse impact of presidential pique on the economy as a whole.

If the government can cancel contracts signed with the private sector many years ago for alleged onerous provisions, won’t that make both local and foreign investors think twice or even thrice about doing business in the country?

As things now stand, our latest GDP growth rate is considered the lowest in the past eight years, if I’m not mistaken. Foreign direct investments or FDIs have not been coming to the Philippines in droves as expected, but are taking advantage of a more welcoming environment among our Southeast Asian neighbors whose policies do not change in midstream. Even the stock market has been taking a plunge of late, telling us that investor sentiment is really down.

Given this, can capital flight not be far behind? If this happens, then we can be sure that investor confidence in the Philippine economy will further weaken.

The closure of ABS-CBN and renegotiation of concession agreements with water distribution firms will not only erode investor confidence in the economy, but also make international debt watchers such as Fitch, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and Moody’s rescind their recent upgrade of the country’s credit rating.

The administration should consider the welfare of the people first before taking any action that can be construed as political vendetta against those who oppose its policies.

The closure of ABS-CBN will send a chilling effect on other media outfits that have been critical of the Duterte administration. More than an assault on freedom of the press, the non-renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise and the resulting dismissal of 11,000 workers will not help any in achieving the administration’s goal of creating more jobs and lifting more Filipinos from the clutches of poverty.

President Duterte should listen to the pleas of the many families who depend on ABS-CBN to earn their keep. The media outfit, after all, is one of the country’s biggest taxpayers and also the largest employer of media and entertainment professionals. Leaving them jobless will have an adverse impact on the media and entertainment industries.

We take a dim view of the legal maneuvers of the administration against perceived critics. The quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against ABS-CBN is a thinly-veiled political harassment against enterprises and individuals considered as enemies of the administration.

Democracy Watch, a group that monitors developments in the political sphere and regularly issues statements against emerging threats to our democratic system, has sounded a warning against what it calls “the beginning of another crony capitalist era that’s even darker than the Marcos dictatorship.”

In this vein, it is timely and proper to ask: Who will be next on the administration’s chopping block?

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Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Democracy Watch , Manila Water Co , Maynilad Water Services Inc , Economy
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