Duterte warns of gov’t takeover, warrantless arrests over water deals

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 10) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday made more threats in connection with the supposedly onerous water concession agreements signed more than two decades ago.

Duterte insisted he wants to talk with the lawyers who crafted the 1997 deals between the government and water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water. He said he will have to force them to meet him if they do not do so voluntarily, even threatening to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which would allow warrantless arrests.

"Kung ayaw nilang pumunta dito e 'di (If they don't want to come here then) I will drag them," Duterte said during the oath-taking of newly appointed uniformed personnel in Malacañang.

"Ayaw ninyo? O sige. Gusto ninyo daanin sa (You don't want? Okay. I will have to)... I will suspend this writ of habeas corpus at hilahin kayo (and drag you)," Duterte added.

READ: What is the writ of habeas corpus?

Duterte said he wants these lawyers, as well as officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System to explain how it all happened. The MWSS is the government agency tasked to ensure a stable and adequate supply of water.

"'Pag di ako (If I'm not) satisified, I will expropriate everything. Kunin ko lahat (I will take everything)" Duterte said.

The President also warned of government takeover in October in case of a water crisis as Maynilad and Manila Water again scheduled rotational water supply interruptions in Metro Manila and other areas under their jurisdiction.

Duterte continues to lambast the utility firms despite an earlier declaration they would no longer demand billions of refund from the government. An international tribunal recently ordered the Philippine government to pay Manila Water ₱7.4 billion in losses stemming from rejected water rate hikes back in 2015. In a similar case in 2017, the government was ordered to reimburse ₱3.4 billion for Maynilad's losses.

Duterte started to lament about the contracts when Manila Water's arbitral win hogged headlines. He said the government will not pay a single centavo from the refund, and even threatened to sue the water concessionaires and former government officials for economic plunder.

READ: Gov't won't be paying Maynilad, Manila Water

Duterte on Tuesday stressed he has an "airtight" case against Maynilad and Manila Water, adding that the contracts mirror provisions of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The Justice Department said it has found a dozen provisions disadvantageous to the government and the public.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a media briefing pointed out that the contracts require the government to pay for the companies' business losses while prohibiting it from interfering in fixing the water rates. He also said it was anomalous for the contracts to be extended to 2037, since it was granted more than a decade before the original expiration of the agreements in 2022.