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Pres. Rodrigo Duterte humbled by COVID-19 pandemic; apologizes to PH tycoons he threatened to jail

The President said he recognized the efforts of these businessmen who stepped up to assist in the government’s COVID-19 response.

President Rodrigo Duterte has apologized to the Ayala family and Manuel Pangilinan for attacking them in the past, saying the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic had “humbled” him.

In a televised public address on Monday night, the President said he recognized the efforts of these businessmen who stepped up to assist in the government’s COVID-19 response.

“Iyong mga masakit kong salita to the Ayalas and to — si Pangilinan, I apologize for the hurting words. If you can find in your heart to forgive me because if you do not then — I will undercut you. I’ll go direct to God. ‘God, ayaw akong patawarin nitong mga itong si ano.’ Magyawyaw na naman ako,” Duterte said.

“Itong mga big business… Meron tayong mga problema noon, which was really part of governance and which I hope you would understand that it was really part of my sworn duty as the — as an employee of the government who heads the Executive department. Words were, well, mainly mine. But if you just can forget it for the moment, I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping us provide the necessities of the moment,” he added.

Duterte then said they could talk to him, citing that the COVID-19 pandemic is a humbling experience for him.

“Naubos na ho iyong pagka-suplado ko dahil sa COVID. The COVID humbled me. That with the kind of response that you gave, showed to the public, it’s a humbling experience also for me that, you know, baka kailangan mo rin sila balang araw,” the President noted.

“So maybe there will be a lot of legal issues but we can talk… I am ready to talk and I’d be reasonable,” he added.

Since the start of his term, Duterte has been criticizing those he called “oligarchs.”

The President has accused the Ayalas and Pangilinan of allegedly taking advantage of their water concession agreements with the government.

Manila Water Company is a subsidiary of the Ayala family’s Ayala Corp., while the Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) owns a controlling stake in Maynilad Water Services.

According to Duterte, the current agreements with the two water companies were “disadvantageous” to the Filipinos.

The President then ordered the crafting of new concession deals and threatened the two water firms that the government would take over water distribution services if they refuse to accept the new water agreement.

The concession agreements with Manila Water and Maynilad will expire in 2022.

Ayala Corp. chair Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Pangilinan, the chief executive of Hong Kong-listed First Pacific, which also owns the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) aside from the MPIC, were among the first businessmen to respond to Duterte’s call to alleviate the plight of workers at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.

As of Tuesday noon, only Pangilinan has responded to the President through a tweet.

“I would like to thank the President for his remarks tonight, most especially for his sincerity and kindness,” Pangilinan said.

Written by Angelle De Leon

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