Usec. Villar inhibits from review of water deals

Maris Federez   •   December 13, 2019   •   285

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar will not be joining the team that will review the contract entered into by the government with Manila Water Company and Maynilad Water Services through state regulator Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997.

Villar on Friday (December 13) inhibited herself to dispel doubts and suspicions on the review to be conducted and the renegotiation of the government with the two water concessionaires.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he was the one who requested Villar to inhibit from the review although he deemed it unfair that the official is being subjected to allegations of conflict of interest.

“I requested Usec. Villar to inhibit herself to dispel suspicions that the DOJ contract review may not be completely objective due to an alleged possible conflict of interest. It’s unfair to Usec Villar who has always acted with professionality, but the circumstances call for it.,” Guevarra told reporters.

Guevarra reiterated that any lawyer who would look into the contract between the MWSS and the two water concessionaires would come to the same findings and conclusion — that the deal had been onerous for the government and the public.

Villar, a former Diwa Party-list representative and daughter of former national police chief Edgar Aglipay, is the wife of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar. Villar’s family runs Prime Water Infrastructure Corp. — /mbmf

Panelo to recommend review of UP-Ayala Technohub contract to Pres. Duterte

Maris Federez   •   January 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo will recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte to also review the contract of the University of the Philippines-Diliman with the Ayala Land Incorporated for the conversion of a UP lot into UP-Ayala Land Technohub.

Panelo said that a study has come to his attention showing the very low lease amount that the Ayala group is paying to UP.

A number of business outsourcing firms, retail areas, campus apartments, and business hotels has occupied the Technohub that is now a popular hangout place in Quezon City.

The Palace official said he will recommend to the president a closer review of the lease contract to check the veracity of the report that the Ayala Land group is only paying UP just a little higher than Php20.00 per square meter for 25 years.

“Only 10.4 billion will be taken by the government at the end of 25 years […] mukhang kawawa na naman ang gobyerno dito,” said Panelo.

He added that should the claim in the report be true, it will cause so much loss for the government.

“Definitely lugi ang gobyerno dito,” he said.

The Ayala group, on the other hand, has denied the allegation of the very low rental fee.

It, however, welcomes whatever review that will be conducted on its lease contract with UP.

Aside from the Technohub, the President has also slammed Manila Water, the water concessionaire company under the Ayala Corporation due to its alleged onerous contract with the government. — (from the report of Rosalie Coz) /mbmf

DOJ to charge Albayalde, ninja cops over 2013 drug raid in Pampanga

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 17, 2020

Former Philippine National Police chief, General Oscar Albayalde

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended the filing of charges against former Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde and 12 so-called ninja cops over the 2013 drug raid in Pampanga.

The DOJ has found probable cause to indict Albayalde and 12 others for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

In a statement on Thursday (January 16), the DOJ maintained that the said personalities are in “violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations in connection with the official duties of the latter, and for causing any undue injury to any party, including the government.”

Albayalde, however, has been cleared of other charges, such as misappropriating confiscated drugs, falsifying public documents, and failure to prosecute police officers.

The 12 cops, on the other hand, will also be indicted for other charges including bribery, planting of evidence, as well as delay and bungling in the prosecution of drug cases.

The 12 police officers are Police Lt. Col. Rodney Raymundo Louie Juico Baloyo IV, Police Lt. Joven Bagnot De Guzman, Jr., Police Master Sgts. Jules Lacap Maniago, Donald Castro Roque, Ronald Bayas Santos, Rommel Muñoz Vital, Alcindor Mangiduyos Tinio, Eligio Dayos Valeroso, Dante Mercado Dizon; Police Staff Sgts. Dindo Singian Dizon, Gilbert Angeles De Vera, and Romeo Encarnacio Guerrero Jr.

The said officers were allegedly involved in seizing 200 kilos of illegal drugs during an anti-drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013.

In a statement, Albayalde welcomed the development and is confident that the truth will still prevail.

“I welcome this development as the chance to once and for all clear my name in the proper forum. Finally, I will have my day in court,” he said. “My conscience remains clear, and I am confident that the truth will bear me out in the end.”—AAC

Duterte offers new concession deals to Maynilad, Manila Water

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has offered water companies, Maynilad and Manila Water, new concession deals that will replace existing agreements with provisions that are allegedly disadvantageous to the government and the public, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president made the offer after the Department of Justice and Office of the Solicitor General presented the new contracts during their Cabinet meeting on Monday night.

Panelo said the new concession contracts do not contain the supposedly onerous provisions in the existing contracts which were signed in 1997.

“The Chief executive is giving the water concessionaires the option of accepting the new contracts without any guarantee of not being criminally prosecuted together with those who conspired to craft the very onerous contracts which are void ab initio for violating the constitution and the laws of the land,” he told reporters at a Palace briefing.

Should Maynilad and Manila Water refuse to accept the new contracts, Panelo said Duterte will order the cancellation of their current concession deals, and prosecute all those behind the crafting of the 1997 water agreement.

He would also order for the nationalization of water services in their respective areas of operation.

“Should Maynilad and Manila Water refuse to accept the new agreements, the Chief Executive will order the cancellation of their present water contracts, mandate the nationalization of water services in their respective areas of operation and prosecute all those involved, directly or indirectly, in the arrangement that led to the present suffering of the Filipino people,” Panelo said.

In a statement, Maynilad said it has yet to receive a copy of the revised agreement. It also gave reassurance of continuing cooperation amid its contract woes.

Manila Water has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Duterte did not provide a deadline to the water concessionaires about his offer.

The water firms’ woes came after Duterte assailed the two Metro Manila water concessionaires for allegedly taking advantage of the ‘onerous, lopsided’ contracts to “milk” Filipinos by the billions.

The chief executive earlier threatened to file economic sabotage raps against the water concessionaires and other officials involved in the crafting of the deals following the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore’s order to pay Manila Water P7.4 billion, and Maynilad P3.6 billion about two years ago as compensation for losses or damages.

The two water firms separately took the government to court after the MWSS rejected their respective petitions to raise water rates a few years ago. The firms cited its concession deal which prohibits the government from setting water rates, and pushes for indemnification for possible losses in the event of such government interference.

But the two firms in December said they will no longer pursue the awards, and assured cooperation as the present government reviews the provisions in the agreements. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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