Duterte says gov't has ’airtight’ case vs involved in onerous water contracts
Despite the decision of Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. not to pursue with their respective arbitration awards, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday the government has an "airtight" case against them and other individuals involved in the crafting of "onerous" and "disadvantageous" contracts with the government.
In a speech during the oath-taking ceremony of the newly-promoted uniformed personnel in Malacañang, Duterte acknowledged that the water concessionaires wanted to forgo with the arbitral awards.
"What they are saying now in their letter, they will forgo with the 7 billion (pesos). Then they are willing to talk, to correct --- 1997 until…how --- how can you talk about correcting things? You were collecting from the people," he said.
Duterte indicated that his administration would proceed with the filing of charges against those involved in preparing the onerous cotracts.
"I will feel the pulse of the people. If they will tell, 'Mayor, do something'. My case is airtight. The contract itself, if you show it to anti-graft law, it mirrors, it is a mirror of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law. Republic Act 3019," he said.
The Ayala-led Manila Water and Pangilinan-led Maynilad earlier in the day said they would not collect from the government the P7.4 billion and the P3.4 bilion awards, respectively, by the Singapore-based arbitration court for breach of contract.
In a press briefing earlier in the day, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, both allies of Duterte, could be included in the case involving the water concession deals.
"If they are part of the conspiracy," said Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel.
"But if they are not, they cannot be included," he added.
The concession agreements were signed in 1997 under the Ramos administration and the 15-year extension of the deals even if they were yet to expire in 2022 took place in 2009 under the Arroyo government.
Duterte reiterated in his speech that he wants to talk to the former government officials and lawyers involved in the drafting of the contracts.
He said if they would not talk to him, "I will drag them. Then if you will force my hand, I will throw my last card. You don't want to come? I will suspend the habeas corpus and I will drag you. Widespread economic sabotage."
"One by one, the lawyers who made the contract. Who were the officials then of MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System)? I will ask them, what the f*ck did you do and screwed the country?” he said.
While Manila Water and Maynilad's move not to seek for the refund anymore was a "positive development," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said what is important for the government is to remove the onerous provisions in the concession agreements.
"The issue of paying the arbitral award is not as important in ensuring that disputes arising from burdensone provisions of the water concession agreements will never happen again in the future. Meaning, we shall ensure the removal of onerous provisions," he told reporters in a text message. Celerina Monte/DMS