Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte defends Dennis Uy Malampaya buyout, energy chief Cusi

Pia Ranada

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Duterte defends Dennis Uy Malampaya buyout, energy chief Cusi

DUTERTE SPEAKS UP. President Duterte comes to the defense of his campaign contributor Dennis Uy and his energy chief Alfonso Cusi.

Malacau00f1ang file photo

The President issues a rare written statement vouching for the legality of his campaign donor's buyout of a firm with a stake in the Malampaya gas field

MANILA, Philippines – In a rare move, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte issued an official personal statement vouching for the soundness and legality of his campaign donor Dennis Uy’s acquisition of a firm with a stake in the Malampaya gas field and the integrity of his energy secretary who approved the deal.

“I have seen the report on the sale and purchase of the stock of Chevron Malampaya LLC. Based on this, I am convinced that this was a private transaction between private entities that must be respected,” said Duterte in a statement sent by Malacañang on Friday, February 4.

The presidential statement comes mere hours after the Senate transmitted to the Ombudsman a resolution calling for criminal and administrative charges to be filed against Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

The Chief Executive slammed the Senate moves as “political antics” that put the Malampaya deal and the government officials involved in it in a bad light.

 “This casts undue, undeserved, and unwarranted aspersion on the part of some of our key government officials. This is grossly unfair to them and to the public… I will not allow this valuable resource to be jeopardized and embroiled in the political antics of some members of the Senate,” said Duterte.

Cusi has Duterte’s ‘full trust and confidence’

Duterte said the embattled Cusi has his “full trust and confidence” and will stay on as energy chief.

Two days before, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian called on Cusi to resign for supposedly bending over backwards in favor of Dennis Uy, the Davao businessman who owns Udenna Corporation and whose subsidiary UC Malampaya Philippines acquired Chevron Malampaya, a firm with a 45% stake in the Malampaya gas field.

Uy is also one of Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign donors and was named his presidential adviser on sports.

In his statement, Duterte sought to portray the Senate as the enemy of investments because of its opposition to Uy’s Malampaya buyout.

“I am calling on our legislators to ensure that our ability to compete is not jeopardized by political intrigues and innuendos. Leave business transactions in the capable hands of the business sector. Let us respect their business decisions while we protect our national interests,” said Duterte, who added that Senate investigations must be “devoid of reckless accusations.”

The Senate inquiry led by Gatchalian had raised red flags on the DOE approval of the transfer of shares of Chevron to UC Malampaya, alleging that UC Malampaya was not financially qualified for it.

Udenna has maintained that there was nothing wrong with the deal as it was a private undertaking.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines supported the Senate committee’s stance, calling on DOE to scrap the sale of shares to Uy’s corporation.

Duterte has rarely issued written official personal statements. He usually leaves it to spokesmen to issue written statements or makes his personal views known during televised remarks. One of the only few other instances was when he released a position paper on why the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction to investigate his drug war.

But the rare statement may have also been issued because Duterte has been under quarantine following an exposure to a COVID-19 positive staff member, preventing him from taking part in his weekly public addresses. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.