MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte warned water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water that their executives would be sent to jail in just “one night” if they refuse to accept the new deals offered by the government.
Duterte issued the warning in a speech before members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Davao City on Friday, January 17.
“But I tell you, you better sign the contract – this is good for the Filipino people. You do not sign it, I take over your operations sa water distribution. I will nationalize the water in my country,” the President said, earning him applause from the crowd.
Without explicitly naming the business tycoons, Duterte cautioned Manny Pangilinan, whose whose Metro Pacific Investments Corporation owns a controlling stake in Maynilad, and Manila Water chair Fernando Zobel de Ayala, against going to court to stop the new deals.
Citing the tactics of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, Duterte said he would send the business executives to jail if they refuse the new contracts. (READ: 'Time of reckoning': Duterte offers new deals to Maynilad, Manila Water)
“And do not force my hand into it. Ipit-ipitin niyo ako ng kaso – ah TRO (temporary restraining order) dito, punta kayo sa korte [para] pigilan ako,” Duterte said.
(And do not force my hand into it. Don't tie my hands with cases, seeking a TRO here, going to court to stop me.)
“One night, hulihin ko silang lahat. At diyan lang kayo. Kailan ko kayo palabasin? Hanggang gusto ko. Si Marcos, 27 years. Gawain ko akin, 30 years. Putangina kayo. Sinabi ko na nga sa inyo eh,” the President added.
(In one night, I would send them to jail. You will rot there. When would I release you? You'd stay there as long as I want to. Marcos had 27 years. It would be 30 years for me. Sons of a bitch. I told you so.)
Panelo later clarified Duterte's statements, saying in a radio interview on Sunday, January 19, that legal processes will still be followed.
"Ang ibig sabihin ni Presidente, ide-demanda ang mga dapat idemanda. At kung makakita ng probable cause, eh, 'di ang hukuman ang pwede mag-issue ng warrant of arrest. Kulong sila. Pero lahat 'yan papadaanin natin sa prosesong legal," said Panelo.
(The President means, sue those that should be sued. And if there's probable cause, it's the courts who will issue a warrant of arrest. They will be jailed. But all of that, we'll have them go through legal processes.)
Asked about Duterte's plan to follow the strategy of ex-dictator Marcos, Panelo argued that Duterte has a stronger political will to push his agenda.
Panelo then treated as a "good sign" the companies' statement that they "will be cooperative" with the government.
Duterte's renewed threats against Ayala and Pangilinan are the latest in his showdown with the private concessionaires. The President had been outraged after separate arbitral rulings ordered the Philippine government to pay P7.39 billion to Manila Water and P3.4 billion to Maynilad for the non-implementation of rate hikes
Duterte then began making threats against the Ayala family and Pangilinan, prompting both water concessionaires to waive the results of the arbitral rulings and no longer demand payment from the government.
On January 7, the President offered the companies new deals crafted on the government's terms while doubling down on threats of a takeover should they refuse.