DOJ denies conflict of interest in review of water concession deals

Robie de Guzman   •   December 12, 2019   •   533

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday denied allegations of conflict of interest in the ongoing review of the water concession deal between the government of Maynilad and Manila Water.

The allegations surfaced following news reports that Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar was part of the team that reviewed the water supply agreements.

Aglipay-Villar is the wife of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, whose family owns the Prime Water Infrastructure Corporation, one of the utility firms that may possibly become a player to replace Maynilad and Manila Water when their contract ends in 2022.

Guevarra said he does not know where these kinds of allegations came from. He also said that he led the review of water deals.

“Siyempre as SOJ, ako ang head ng review team at ginagamit ko diyan, nag-assist ng review, naturally legal staff ng DOJ. Sa office ng state counsel so sila ang nag-review niyan with the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel. So, yung units na yun, nagkataon lang under the supervision ni Usec. Emmeline Villar kasi may mga distribution ng work ng ng mga usecs ng DOJ,” he told reporters in an event in Manila Thursday morning.

Guevarra said the DOJ team found onerous provisions in the contracts signed in 1997 and recommended its removal as well as the crafting of new deal that would be advantageous to the public.

“Believe me when I say that any good lawyer will see the inequitable provisions in the water concession agreements, and the fact the Usec. Emmeline Villar is part of the DOJ review team is totally irrelevant,” he said.

Aglipay-Villar, a former congresswoman, also denied the allegations, adding that the DOJ conducted a disinterested review of the concession agreements.  – RRD (with details from Correspondent Asher Cadapan Jr.)

Duterte orders DOJ to form task force to probe alleged corruption in PhilHealth

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 7, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to form a task force to investigate the alleged corruption in PhilHealth.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday (August 7) said the President already issued a memorandum to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to form a task force and file appropriate charges against officials proven to be involved in corruption.

The task force will also have the authority to audit PhilHealth finances, conduct lifestyle checks, and impose preventive suspensions of officials. The DOJ can also require other government agencies to assist in the investigation.

Si President is exasperated. Gusto na niyang matigil itong korupsyon sa PhilHealth, at gusto na niya na may ngipin itong task force na binuo niya. Ang mensahe po sa mga buwaya ng PhilHealth, tapos na po ang maliligayang araw ninyo diyan (The President is exasperated. He wants to curb the corruption in PhilHealth and he wants this task force to have teeth. To the corrupt officials in PhilHealth, your happy days are over),” he said.

The task force will have 30 days after its formation to submit its findings and recommendation to the Office of the President.

Meanwhile, Malacañang assures that the government will not allow the PhilHealth funds to run out. This is amid reports that the agency’s actuarial life is only for one year, instead of 10 years.

Kung hindi po sapat, gbyerno po talaga ang magdadagdag ng budget galing sa kaban ng bayan (If funds will not suffice, the government will supplement the budget),” Roque said. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

DOJ hopes SC will rule on merit, not personalities behind petitions vs anti-terror law

Robie de Guzman   •   July 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday expressed hope that the Supreme Court will resolve the questions on the legality of Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 based on the merits, and not the number and personalities behind lawsuits.

“All these petitions, no matter how many they are, will boil down to a common set of constitutional issues. The Supreme Court will resolve these issues on the merits of the arguments advanced by the parties concerned, and not on the basis of their number or personal or professional stature,” Guevarra said.

At least 16 petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court against the controversial measure which came into effect this month.

Among those who questioned the validity of the law were law professors and former officials of the Executive branch and retired Supreme Court Justices.

The petitioners questioned the vague and broad provisions of the law that may lead to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement and malicious prosecution of innocent people.

Petitioners also urged the high court to declare the entire law unconstitutional and to stop its implementation.

DOJ maintains rule of law fairly applied to all quarantine violators

Marje Pelayo   •   July 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) maintains that the law is being fairly implemented and uniformly enforced on all quarantine violators.

This was in response to critics accusing the agency of favoring personalities such as Senator Koko Pimentel who visited Makati Medical Center in March despite being positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), thereby exposing hospital staff and other patients to infection. 

Another controversial violation was the gathering of staffers during the birthday party of National Capital Region (NCR) Police Office Chief Debold Sinas where a number of violations were identified. 

But up to now, Sinas remains in position. 

In comparison to their cases, local government units (LGUs) have been more strict when it comes to apprehending ordinary residents over protocol violations. 

To date, over 200,000 quarantine violators have bee arrested, some even detained by authorities. 

In defense, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra denied any inconsistencies or variation in the implementation of the law whether against people of status or ordinary residents. 

“I wouldn’t really say that there is an inconsistent application of the rule of law it just so happened that a greater number of those arrested came from the lower income groups,” Guevarra said.

“And that’s simply because they are the ones who were caught on the streets and for that reason since they have been found or at the time of their arrest were found to be violating certain quarantine rules and regulations kaya sila marami ,” he added.

In fact, Guevarra said, authorities are now investigating the incidents involving Pimentel and Sinas. He added that charges have been filed against several policemen who themselves violated quarantine protocols. 

“So it’s really a matter of perception but kasi greater number yung mga tao na masasabi na nasa lower income level yung tinatawag nating mga mahihirap na nahuhuli sa mga violations,” the Justice Secretary said. 

“But it doesn’t mean at all that there is an unfair application of the law. We apply this as uniformly as possible,” he concluded. MNP (with details from Joan Nano)

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