Water tubes of a concessionaire is pictured at Philcoa in Quezon City on Aug. 7, 2019.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Duterte threatens to 'expropriate everything' from water firms
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - December 10, 2019 - 7:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday threatened to "expropriate everything" from the two major water distributors, claiming he has an "airtight" case against people behind the concession deals that he said are disadvantageous to the government.

Duterte said he would seize water distribution from Manila Water and Maynilad if he is not satisfied with their explanation of the concession agreements.

"I want to face all of them here. I will ask each of them, the lawyers who crafted the son of a b**** contracts. Who are the officials of the MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System)? I will ask them, what the f*** did you do and screwed the country?" the president said during the oath-taking of newly-promoted uniformed officials in Malacañang.

"Ngayon, pag hindi ako ma... satisfy (Now, if I am not satisfied), I will expropriate everything, kunin ko lahat. Magdemanda ka ng magdemanda. Tutal, dalawang taon lang naman wala na ako (I will seize everything. Go ahead, file charges. After all, I'll be out in two years)," he added.

RELATED: Government open to take over water operations amid shortage

Duterte said he is ready to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to force those who drafted the water deals to appear before him.

"I want everybody, the lawyers, if they do not want to come here, I will drag them. If you will force my hand, I will throw my last card. If you don't want, go ahead... Then I will suspend the writ of habeas corpus. I will drag you. Widespread economic sabotage," the president said.

A writ of habeas corpus is an order to present the body of someone who is in jail. It serves as a safeguard against illegal detention.

According to the 1987 Constitution, "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except in cases of invasion or rebellion when the public safety requires it."

Earlier Tuesday, Manila Water president and CEO Jose Almendras and Maynilad president and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez told a House panel that their firms will no longer try to collect nearly P11 billion that they had been awarded in separate arbitration cases.

On Monday, Duterte said there would be no compromise with water concessionaires until he has spoken with their owners and the state lawyers who crafted the water distribution agreements. He also demanded amendments to the contracts, which he claimed "bargained away" Philippine sovereignty.

Duterte has also threatened to file plunder, graft, and economic sabotage charges against people who allowed the concession agreements to be implemented.

READ: Duterte threatens water firms with 'economic sabotage' charges

Rody: Case vs. water firms 'airtight'

The president expressed confidence that his case against the water firms would stand in court.

"If they say, mayor run after them, then I will file economic sabotage. My case is airtight. The contracts themselves, if you review it in relation to the anti-graft law, it mirrors, it is a mirror of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices (Act)," Duterte said.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the removal of onerous provisions in the concession deals would not exonerate people who crafted the agreements.

"You know, when the crime has been committed, even if you return, there is still a crime. And the President is mandated to enforce the law and the law said any transgression will have to be prosecuted," Panelo said in a press briefing yesterday.

Panelo said former presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would also face charges if it is proven that they were part of the conspiracy to implement the "onerous" contracts.  

"(Cases will be filed) against all so everybody that is involved in the drafting and approving of that concessionaire agreement," Panelo said when asked if Arroyo and Ramos would also be charged in connection with the concession deals.  

"He (Duterte) will file economic sabotage to those involved… against all of them," he added.

The 25-year water concession agreements were signed in 1997 during the Ramos administration. They were extended by 15 years in 2009 when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was president.

'How do you correct that?'

Duterte was also unmoved by the announcement of Manila Water and Maynilad that they would no longer collect damages from the government despite the favorable rulings they secured from arbitration proceedings in Singapore.

The arbitration court has issued separate rulings ordering the Philippine government to compensate the two water firms for the losses they incurred due to the delayed implementation of rate hikes.

The Singapore court ordered the government to pay P3.42 billion in damages to Maynilad and P7.39 billion to Manila Water, prompting Duterte to demand the scrapping of a contract provision that barred the state from stopping rate increases.

"Two administrations, they allowed this to happen...Now they are saying through a letter, they will forgo with the P7 billion. Then, they are willing to talk, to correct...How? How can you talk about correcting things?" the President said.  

"You were collecting from the people," he added.

Duterte claimed Filipinos are paying for the water treatments undertaken by water concessionaires and are shouldering their corporate income taxes.

"And you placed in the contract, 'The corporate income tax shall be spread in the accounts of the consumers in public.' I want to throw this away," he said.

Duterte said he was also angered by the provisions that allowed water firms to adjust rates, a set-up that he said "bargained away" the Philippines' sovereignty. He reiterated his call for government forces to continue looking after the issue involving the water concession deals.

"But you know, I said if I do not make it, huwag ninyong bitawan ito (Do not let this slip away). I'm not saying you initiate something like coup d’état. Huwag kasi hindi na 'yan tanggap ng Pilipino 'yan eh (No because Filipinos won't accept it)," Duterte said. 

"If you want an outright, huwag martial law. Mag-revolutionary government ka na lang. Diretso na (do not impose martial law. Just declare a revolutionary government). Tapos (Then) you start to correct everything," Duterte said.

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