On Wednesday, President Duterte offered an option to the two water concessionaires, Maynilad and Manila Water. The offer was either to sign the new contracts prepared by the administration’s lawyers or get sued and go to jail. The president stated in his speech at Malacañang palace that the two water firms will face some serious consequences if they don’t adhere to the government’s demand, stressing that he still had two years of terms to enforce the penalty.
“And so I gave them the choice, not an ultimatum. We do not do that because we do not own government. I told them: sign the new contract because if you don’t, I will nationalize, take over the operations and I’ll send you to jail.”
Speaking about how the current contract was created, Duterte said that it was already flawed right at the beginning that’s why it’s problematic and needs to be changed as it violates the Anti-Graft and Practices law or the Republic Act 3019. He also added that it was a “conspiracy to defraud government”. According to the president:
“if you place the two documents: Republic Act 3019, that’s the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices and you place them face-to-face with the contract of the consumers, distributors, you would notice that all of the prohibited transactions in the Anti-Graft Law are really in the document itself.”
Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo stated during the mass oath-taking of the presidential appointees that new water contracts are still currently being “fixed” as some “mechanics” have to be settled.
The president however also stated in his speech that even if the two water concessionaires will sign the new contracts, there is no assurance that cases against them, civil and administrative, will not be filed for, according to him, he’s “not the only Filipino who is interested in the prosecution of crimes”. The president also added:
“That contract was never shown to the public. It was kept out, and suddenly we have a liability. You rob as blind in front.”
The petition to launch an investigation against the two water companies
On the other hand, a petition in Charge.org is circulating in the internet right now urging the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines to “launch a national inquiry on compliance with and violations of the human right to water”. On this petition, it was stated:
“We, the undersigned, strongly demand the Philippine Commission on Human Rights to exercise immediately its power to launch a national inquiry on State and non-State actors compliance with and violations of the human right to water and sanitation.”
According to the statement:
The issue needs urgent action from the CHR because water is fundamental to the dignity of all and the human right to water is a recognized prerequisite for the realization of other human rights. The urgency of the situation is due to the fact that, to use the words of the United Nations (UN), “water is the essence of life” and because of that “safe drinking water and sanitation are indispensable to sustain life and health, and fundamental to the dignity of all.”
As of this moment, the petition has gathered 12,231 signatures.