Threatening the Ayalas, MVP

"The President might as well point a gun to their heads."


President Rodrigo Duterte has called water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water “economic saboteurs” and “plunderers.” He also said that unless Manuel Pangilinan of Maynilad and the Ayalas of Manila Water do not accept the new concession agreement crafted by the Department of Justice, they would go to jail.

And I thought that in my 70 years as a journalist, I have seen the best and worst of those in power.

Now here is Duterte making these threats to arrest these top executives in one night, just as Ferdinand Marcos did when he declared martial law. My gulay, at least Marcos did it after suspending the writ of habeas corpus under the 1935 Constitution!

Duterte is a lawyer and as such he should know that under the 1987 Constitution, there are limits to what he can do even if he declares martial law.

If he were to read the Constitution again—I presume he has read the 1987 Charter—he cannot do what he says he will do to the Ayalas and to Pangilinan. Santa Banana, the 1987 Constitution was precisely a reaction to the Marcos dictatorship!

It is for this that I am aghast at what Duterte has threatened to do. It would be even worse than a dictatorship, my gulay!

According to Malacañang, the contracts entered into during the Ramos administration were onerous. Some provisions included the non-intervention of government over water rates, non-payment of corporate income tax, and their claims on the government over their losses. These contracts were renewed during the Arroyo administration.

Duterte calls it his war on oligarchs, but we all know that he has his own retinue of oligarchs.

To nationalize water distribution would be the worst thing that this administration can do. We all know what happens when government enters business.

To be fair to the Ayalas and to MVP, they have already canceled their almost P11 billion claim despite the fact that the arbitration tribunal in Singapore ruled in their favor. Most importantly, they have foregone their proposed increase in water rates.

As a lawyer, Duterte must know that the best thing to do is to follow due process and uphold the rule of law. What he is doing to the concessionaires is like pointing a gun to their heads.

And now, Duterte also wants to look into the contract of Pangilinan and the Ayalas on the Light Rail Transit. I think the President should really be looking into all contracts to ensure that the interest of the government is upheld.

* * *

I am all for the passage of the Department of Disaster Resilience. We need it so badly, and the eruption of Taal Volcano reminds us of this.

There is also a move by a Cavite congressman to investigate Phivolcs for not predicting the eruption of Taal. But we are in the Pacific ring of fire with so many active fault lines and volcanoes. Predicting when exactly they will occur is not possible.

In the case of the proposed creation of a Taal Commission, that would be the job of the DDR if it comes to pass. I like the enthusiasm of Senator Ralph Recto but he should just push for the creation of the DDR. With this department, rescue, relief and rehabilitation would be focused on one department.

* * *

The Romualdez couple at the House of Representatives has filed a bill that plugs loopholes in the law that are being exploited by sexual predators. The bill seeks to raise the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16. Indeed this is a critical move that shields children from abuse and violence.

* * *

I lament the demise of two of my friends in media. They are press icons for me. First is the late Ambassador Andy del Rosario, my colleague in the opinion page.

The other is Ninez Cacho-Olivarez, who married Eddie Olivarez. Both of them were my best friends.

Ninez’s editorials and columns were legendary, with her biting criticism of people in power. In fact, even I was not spared: She called me a moralist—Bishop Emil, she said—for my defense of the Catholic Church, the religious, and Catholic doctrine.

I miss them both.

* * *

On May 14, my wife and I will mark our 65th year as a married couple. Our problem is this: Whom shall we invite? Many of our friends are either dead or incapacitated. I guess we just have to limit our celebration to family.

When I am asked how I have managed to preserve my marriage for this long, I reveal that I always have to have the last word in the house. I say “Yes, darling!”

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Maynilad , Manila Water , Ferdinand Marcos , Department of Disaster Resilience , House of Representative
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