By Genalyn Kabiling
Revealing his “last card” for dealing with the water controversy, President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to “expropriate everything” if he is not satisfied with the explanations of the persons involved in the alleged onerous water distribution contracts.
Duterte also warned about the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus to compel the persons behind the water deals to appear before him and explain why they “screwed” the country.
Under the Constitution, the President may suspend the privilege of writ of habeas corpus in case of invasion or rebellion when the public safety requires it. The writ of habeas corpus is a legal action to challenge why a person has been imprisoned.
Duterte issued his latest stern warning on Tuesday even after Manila Water Co., Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. announced they will no longer collect the P11 billion indemnification payment from the government ordered by an arbitration court in Singapore.
“Gusto ko magharap silang lahat dito sa akin. Isa-isahin ko sila. Ang abugado ng mga p***** i** gumawa ng kontrata. Sino ‘yung mga opisyal ng MWSS noon? Tanungin ko sila. (I want them all in front of me. I’ll confront each of them, the lawyers who crafted the contract, the officials of the MWSS. I’ll ask them) what the f*** did you do and screwed the country?” he said at the oath-taking ceremony of newly promoted fire, jail, and coast guard officials in Malacañang.
“Ngayon pag hindi ako ma-satisfy (Now if I am not satisfied), I will expropriate everything. Kunin ko lahat (I will take everything),” he added.
Duterte remained unfazed about lawsuits if the government pursues the expropriation of the water services. “Magdemanda ka nang magdemanda. Tutal dalawang taon na lang ako tapos wala na ako (You may file as many cases as you want. Besides, I have only two years left and then I’m out),” he said.
Duterte said if the persons behind the water contracts refuse to show up, he will “drag them” to the Palace.
“I want everybody, ‘yung mga abugado niyan noon, kung ayaw nilang pumunta dito, eh ‘di (those lawyers before, if they don’t want to come here) I will drag them. Then if you will force my hand, I will throw my last card. Ayaw ninyo (You don’t want this)? O sige (Alright)… I will suspend this writ of habeas corpus at hihilain ko kayo (I will drag you for) widespread economic sabotage. Ayaw ninyong pumunta dito (You don’t want to come here)? Gusto ko magharap silang lahat dito sa akin (I want them all to face me here),” he said.
Outraged by the allegedly onerous deals, Duterte earlier said he wants to confront the water company officials as well as the government lawyers who crafted the alleged irregular contracts about the matter. Duterte, however, refused to forge any compromise with the water firms, insisting on plans to jail and sue them for economic plunder.
The concession agreements, sealed in 1997, prohibit the government from interfering in rate adjustments and allow indemnity for losses or damages in case of such interference. These were among the alleged irregular provisions that angered the President.
In his remarks Tuesday, Duterte stood firm behind his plan to file plunder charges despite the latest offer of the two water companies to forego their arbitral awards of billions of pesos.
He said these “billionaires” kept sending him letters “begging” for a dialogue with him.
“Sinasabi ngayon sa sulat (They say in their letters), they would forgo with the P7 billion and they were willing to talk to correct 1997…How can you talk about correcting things? You were collecting from the people,” he said.
He also hit back at the water companies for passing on the payment of their corporate income tax to consumers by imposing a water treatment fee. Their collection has reached trillions of pesos without actually building water treatment facilities, he said.
Duterte also said he intends to get the “pulse of the people” on the water controversy. If the people give him the green light to hit back at the water firms, he will press ahead with the filing of economic sabotage charges.
“My case is airtight,” he said, citing the contract itself is a “mirror” of the anti-graft and corrupt practices law.
Duterte said he was determined to send to jail those accountable for the irregular water agreements.
“Yung ginawa nila, that’s plunder, economic plunder,” he said. “They would not only lose their money but they would lose their pants. Ipapakulong ko talaga sila (I will send them to jail),” he said.