By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte is willing to hold talks with two Metro Manila water concessionaires “in public” to address the dispute over their alleged onerous contracts.
The President, however, made clear that he could not guarantee that they would not be held accountable for plunder in relation to the concessionaire contracts.
“Sabi ko, mag-areglo tayo (I said, let’s settle this). Well, of course, I can. I can talk to you but it must be in public,” he said during an assembly of the League of Municipalities in the Philippines in Pasay City.
“Ayaw kong makipag-usap nang ano (I dont want to talk in…) but then I cannot assure you that you will not be prosecuted for graft and corruption or plunder. Million eh (It reached millions),” he said.
The President had earlier denounced the alleged onerous contracts with the Manila Water Company and Maynilad Services, saying the country’s sovereignty was bargained away in these deals. He initially ruled out any compromise deals and has threatened to send to jail those involved in crafting the contracts.
Last week, Duterte had a chance encounter with Manny Pangilinan of Maynilad at a road project inspection and reportedly agreed to hold a meeting soon.
In his remarks Tuesday, the President branded anew the owners of the water companies as the big fishes in the campaign against corruption.
He also noticed that the water officials as well as lawmakers have become silent over the issue, adding that no one seemed interested to conduct an investigation.
“Noong nabuko ko si Ayala pati si Pangilinan, o gusto ninyo ng big fish, sabi ko — one day sabi ko, ‘Okay ibigay ko sa inyo ang pinakamalaking buwaya. Si Ayala pati si Pangilinan, ayan’ (When I exposed Ayala and Pangilinan, you wanted the big fish. I said, ‘Okay I’ll give you the biggest crocodiles. They are Ayala and Pangilinan),” he said.
“Billions sobra. Ayan, nakita mo tahimik ang mga p***** i**. Wala na. Congress, tahimik. Wala. Walang naghingi ng investigation (It reached billions. Now you see they are quiet. Nothing. Congress is quiet. Nothing. No one asked for an investigation),” he added.
Duterte also claimed that the water executives have apologized over the issue because they knew the contracts reflected the violations listed in the country’s anti-graft law. “All the violations that you can think of or all the violations that you would ever know are there,” he said.