Duterte vows to run after Lopez debts

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to go after the Lopez-owned Benpres Holdings, which has been renamed Lopez Holdings, and six other companies that allegedly owes the government money.

He also accused the company’s owners of benefiting from the corruption in the government.

But Lopez Holdings on Thursday said that, contrary to Duterte’s claims, it did not have unpaid debts with the Development Bank of the Philippines or any other government institution.

In a statement posted on the official news website of its media arm, broadcast giant ABS-CBN, the company said Duterte might have been referring to the debt paper that the DBP sold to a special- purpose vehicle, a financial entity that manages debt.

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“Lopez Holdings Corp. does not have any unpaid obligations to the Development Bank of the Philippines or other government financial institutions,” the company said.

“All debt papers, including those sold by DBP to the SPV were eventually settled by the company.”

On Wednesday, Duterte accused the Lopez group of having unsettled debts with the government that were “condoned” due to corruption.

“I would go after the elite. I will not name the person but their companies then,” Duterte said in his speech during the 23rd anniversary of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

“Benpres and about six other companies, they have debts to the [Development Bank of the Philippines]… They used the money of the people to finance their business but they will keep the revenues.

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“And yet, they were not able to pay and it was condoned by government… I said I would go after the elite in this country because they are the ones really who’s benefiting from all of these things.”

Listed-company Lopez Holdings Corp. is a major player in the country’s public service and utilities sector, with interests in media, telecommunications, power generation and distribution, manufacturing and property development.

Duterte likewise took a swipe against ABS-CBN for its alleged biased reporting.

“They can criticize vigorously, they have the media outlets and all. But they are benefiting from the corruption in government,” Duterte said.

“They refuse to pay the right taxes. They refuse to settle their debts.”

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In the same speech, Duterte likewise reiterated that he would sell the Mile Long property in Makati, with its proceeds going to land reform.

This was after the Prieto and Rufino families, whom he earlier accused of not paying billions in taxes, decided to vacate the controversial property.

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