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Marcosian mode: Duterte threatens to arrest water execs ‘one night’

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the thanksgiving gathering with The Fraternal Order of Eagles (TFOE) at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City on January 17, 2020. (Photo by JOEY DALUMPINES / Presidential Photographers Division)

MANILA, Philippines — As dictator Ferdinand Marcos had done, so will I.

So said President Duterte as he threatened to arrest and indefinitely detain the owners of Metro Manila’s water concessionaires whom he had described as the “biggest fish in corruption” in the country.

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Without mentioning them by name, Duterte warned business tycoons Manuel V. Pangilinan, whose Metro Pacific Investments Corp. has a controlling stake in Maynilad Water Services Inc., and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, chair of Manila Water Co. Inc., not to go to court to stop him from pushing a new water concession deal.

“Do not force my hand into it [by] tying me up with cases, TRO (temporary restraining order) here, then going to the courts to stop me. What you don’t want to happen will really happen,” he said in a speech in Davao City on Friday night.

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Speaking to a gathering of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Duterte said he wanted “to see these billionaires inside prison,” but this time in the same manner that Marcos had incarcerated his opponents.

“One night, I will arrest them all, and you will just stay there. When will I release you? When I want to,” the President said. “It was 27 years for Marcos (sic), I will make mine 30 years, you sons of bitches.”

Marcos held his seat for 20 years, ruling for 14 years as a dictator after imposing martial law in 1972. He was toppled by the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.

‘Greatest rip-off’

Duterte started verbally attacking Maynilad, Manila Water and their owners after he said he learned late last year that their 1997 concession agreements with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) contained “onerous” provisions.

“I stumbled on the greatest rip-off of the country,” the President said.

“Of all the contracts that I’ve seen in my lifetime, [it’s this one where] we surrendered sovereignty,” he said. “We allowed our valuable natural resource, such as water (to be treated as) common commodity .… That is a violation of the Constitution.”

Water, air and all natural resources belong to the state “and ultimately the Filipino people,” Duterte said.

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The alleged onerous provisions include the noninterference by the state in setting water rates, the nonpayment of corporate income tax and their compensation claims to the government for their losses.

Cancellation of deals

If the two water companies reject the new agreement being proposed by his administration, the President said he would cancel the existing deal, nationalize the water distribution system and file “airtight” cases of economic plunder, economic sabotage and large-scale estafa against the concessionaires and their owners.

“I am very sure that in the hands of a competent prosecutor, I could get a conviction for plunder. But once the case is filed for estafa, on a large scale, there is no bail allowed. I would love to see these son of a bitch billionaires behind bars,” he said in his speech.

Duterte said the new contract has been finalized by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and that the two water companies are now reviewing it.

“I tell you: you better sign the contract because it is good for the Filipino people,” the President said.

The MWSS had earlier nullified the extension of the existing contract.

Classic clash

Duterte characterizes his conflict with the two water companies as a classic clash between ordinary Filipinos and the country’s elite, who, he said, uses its money to decide who takes the reins of government.

“You know why they feel so confident? They think they always control Philippine politics. They think all presidents [want their financial] contribution,” he said. “I will not have myself controlled by the rich.”

“Now, the circumstances converged,” he said. “Now everyone is on his knees. I do not relish that.”

Duterte said those among the elite whom he had cursed in public “deserved it.”

He said he did not know what would happen after he leaves office.

“At least the next President has been warned,” Duterte said. “But if my time is not enough, If I die [soon], hang on to this. This [water concession deal] is the biggest. It runs to trillions of the blood money of the people.”

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TAGS: Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Manila Water, Manule V. Pangilinan, Maynilad Water, Rodrigo Duterte
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