resident Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan campaign rally at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan City, Laguna on Feb. 23, 2019.
Richard Madelo/Presidential Photo
Palace hits critics who question Duterte's directive to review gov't contracts
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 4, 2019 - 6:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Thursday defended President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to review all government contracts after some groups questioned the timing of the order, which seeks to block provisions that are disadvantageous to the public. 

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) has raised issues over the timing of the order, saying it should have been done during the first year of his administration.

While Bayan described the order as "long overdue," it also expressed suspicion that Duterte's pronouncement may also be a means to divert attention away from issues like the allegedly anomalous deals with China. 

READ: Business watches as Duterte orders review of gov’t contracts

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has also urged the administration to exercise "extreme caution" in reviewing all government deals, saying existing and binding contracts cannot simply be classified as onerous and canceled. The power to review contracts must not be used to harass, the senator added. 

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo chided critics for questioning the president's order and maintained that it was part of the president's duty to the people. 

"Eh ang problema naman sa kanila, mga kritiko eh – sala sa lamig, sala sa init. Kapag wala kang ginawa, nangangantiyaw silang wala kang ginagawa; kapag may ginawa ka naman, tatanungin, bakit ngayon lang (The problem with critics is it's hard to understand them. If you did not do anything, they will mock you. If you do something, they will ask, 'Why only now?'" Panelo told radio station dzMM. 

"You cannot prevent the government from intervening. It can intervene in anything. As president, it is his duty not only to serve the country but to protect the interest of the public," he added. 

READ: Duterte orders review of government deals, removal of 'onerous' terms

Panelo said Duterte is "serious" about reviewing the government deals and has asked agencies to comply with his directive "immediately." He said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has formed a panel to review the contracts. 

Panelo said Duterte ordered the review upon learning that the government under then President Fidel Ramos forged a deal with water concessionaire Maynilad that prohibited it from intruding into the contract terms.

He said the provision was the reason why the government lost an arbitration case and was ordered by a Singapore court to pay billions to Maynilad. 

READ: Palace tells critics of China-funded Chico River project to set aside politics

The case stemmed from state-run Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System's refusal to implement an upward tariff adjustment for the period of 2013 to 2017. The Singapore court ruled in favor of Maynilad and asked the government to pay the water concessionaire P3.42 billion in compensation. The ruling became final last year. 

"The ruling stated that it was the government's fault because it intervened... The president became angry and said it was not acceptable," Panelo said. 

Panelo previously said the ruling on the Maynilad deal is final and could no longer be rescinded but the administration can still prosecute officials who allowed the contract to proceed.

READ: Carpio to DOF’s Dominguez: Incorrect to say Philippines has never defaulted on its loans

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