‘I want billionaires in prison’: Duterte threatens to jail Ayala, Pangilinan over water deal
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday threatened to jail the owners of the two biggest water utilities in the country, Manila Water chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Maynilad chairman Manuel Pangilinan, for having committed what he described as syndicated estafa against consumers for years.
“’Yung nagtatanong kayo, saan ‘yung big fish? Saan ‘yung mga corruption, saan ‘yung malalaki? Oh, ideliver ko na sa inyo ngayon. Si Ayala pati si Pangilinan,” Duterte said in a speech before earthquake victims in M’lang, North Cotabato.
(To those who are asking where are the big fish in corruption, I will deliver to you… Ayala and Pangilinan.)
Ayala and Pangilinan have earned the ire of Duterte over the 1997 water deal between the government, Maynilad, and Manila Water, which he called as “onerous.”
The President vowed to go after those behind the contracts, including the powerful businessmen behind the two firms, whom he accused of “economic plunder.”
“That is f…g contract. On the other hand, I go after them,” he said.
“’Pag nagkamali yang gagong yan, ipakukulong ko talaga sila. Huh. Kita mo maski anong insulto ko, hindi na sumasagot. Sigurado swak sila. Syndicated estafa,” Duterte said.”
(If they commit another mistake, I will put them in jail. See, even how I will insult them they are not responding. I will jail them for syndicated estafa.)
“I want billionaires inside the prison,” he added.
“They are just water distributors. But as it turned out, they are the richest and they think they are the owners of water. That’s why in the contracts they are the only allowed to implement (an) increase…not the government,” the President said.
“We surrendered (our) sovereignty on that,” he said, explaining that the contract considered water as a commodity and not part of the country’s natural resources. He referred to it as a “really crooked way of interpreting a Constitution.”
In separate decisions, the Singapore-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ordered the Philippine government in 2017 to pay P3.6 billion to Maynilad and in November to compensate P7 billion to Manila Water for losses suffered by the water firms due to disallowed water rate increases from 2013 to 2017.
Duterte has said he would never pay the amount, saying the Filipinos were being “milked by the billions” with the onerous deals.
He cited the firms’ corporate income taxes, saying that instead of paying the government their tax liabilities, they instead pass it on to the consumers.
“Since 1997 they have environmental enhancement fee. That’s (for) water treatment facility that is not exiting until now and they
continue collecting. Since 1997 until now that is already worth trillions,” the President said.
Maynilad and Manila Water have said they would no longer collect P10.8 billion in compensation.
Despite the move of Maynilad and Manila Water, Duterte warned of military takeover over the two water concessionaires.
Edited by JE
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