Duterte to file plunder charges vs. Maynilad, Manila Water

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said that he would file a plunder case against Metro Manila’s water concessionaires – Manila Water and Maynilad – because of their supposedly onerous agreements with the government.

“If I file case, I’ll just state there that they have been in operation for so many years, all of the contracts there, all of the provisions were complied with,” said Mr. Duterte during his visit to Legazpi, Albay.

He added, “I'll just issue an affidavit, probably one of guys there, sa Sol[icitor] Gen[eral], file na. I could establish a prima facie case. Then I will file plunder. Ang plunder Mr. Ayala, no bail yan."

Duterte could be referring to Fernando Zobel de Ayala, chairman of the board of Manila Water or his brother Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, the vice chairman of the board.

The President recently threatened to sue the two water concessionaires and former government officials following the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ordering the national government to pay ₱7.39 billion to the Ayala-owned Manila Water.

Referring to the Ayala Corporation, he said: “Nilaro niyo yung Pilipino sa pera... I will pursue this if this is only thing I can achieve in this administration.”

[Translation: You fooled the Filipinos with money...I will pursue this if this is only thing I can achieve in this administration.]

Moreover, Duterte accused the two water concessionaires of committing “economic plunder.”

“If you look at the law, maybe mali ako, but this is a classic case of economic plunder. Wala lang nakasilip nito,” said Duterte.

[Translation: If you look at the law, maybe I’m wrong, but this is a classic case of economic plunder. No one was able to check on this.]

Manila Water earlier said it is working on a compromise with the Department of Finance regarding the ₱7.4-billion refund ordered by the international tribunal.

"We informed him that we are willing to come up with a mutually acceptable manner of implementation of the arbitral award considering that this case was filed due to a violation incurred not during this administration," the concessionaire said in a statement.

There were no fresh comments from the two concessionaires on Duterte's latest threats.

Manila Water water earlier cited its concession agreement with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewage System back in 1997 in which a provision states that the government should “indemnify” the utility firm against any losses that could result from regulatory actions.

According to the Republic Act 7080, plunder charge is filed when a public officer, by himself or in conivance with others, through a combination or series of criminal acts acquired ill-gotten wealth of at least 50 million pesos. Any person who conspired with the public officer shall also be punished for the crime. Plunder is punishable by reclusion perpetua -- or up to 40 years imprisonment -- to death. However, the death penalty was abolished in 2006.