Villar in-law at DOJ denies vested interest in water deals review
MANILA, Philippines — An official of the Department of Justice (DOJ) has denied a report that she is supervising the review of the government’s water concession agreements with Manila Water Company Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. despite a conflict of interest.
The name of Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, wife of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar, came up in the report of Politico, which claimed that she is overseeing the review of the water deals.
A review of the agreement between the government and the two water concessionaires exposed “onerous” provisions that are disadvantageous to the government, DOJ earlier said.
But Aglipay-Villar said it was Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who led the review and not her.
“It was the Secretary himself who conducted the review and who issued the memo regarding that to the President… Prior to that review, there were already several provisions that were identified as being onerous and that was reported in the broadsheets and news and that’s why the President had asked the DOJ to conduct a more thorough review, which was headed by the Secretary, not me,” she said.
Guevarra confirmed Aglipay-Villar’s statement adding that he was also assisted by the Office of the Chief State Counsel (OGSC) and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC). The OGCC is under the supervision of Aglipay-Villar.
Duterte in previous speeches referred to businessman and former Senator Manny Villar, father of DPWH’s Mark Villar, as government’s potential partner if both Maynilad and Manila Water oppose the latest set of terms that the government will draft for a new water contract.
The Villar family owns Prime Water Infrastructure Corporation, a 30-year old company, which, according to its website, has been providing water to more than 500,000 households and produces more than 300-million liters of treated water daily.
Also based on Prime Water’s website, the water firm said it has “a reach that stretches across the entire Philippines – from the Cagayan Province in the North, Zamboanga City in the South, and many provinces in between – PrimeWater provides total professional water and septage management solutions to its partner communities.”
But Guevarra said that being the Secretary of Justice, “I am the head of the review team.”
He also said any lawyer who will review the concession contract will see the onerous provisions.
“It does not really matter who reviews the contract,” Guevarra said, adding that Aglipay-Villar’s relations is immaterial.
“I don’t know who is giving that kind of spin. But remember, I’m the one on top in all of this kaya walang pwedeng makialam [so no one can interfere]. I will not allow it. Definitely not,” he also said.
Edited by KGA
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