MANILA - A complainant in the graft case against Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, billionaire Dennis Uy and others over the sale of Chevron’s stake in the Malampaya project to Uy’s Udenna Corp said Filipinos should be outraged with the repercussions of the deal for the country’s natural resources and future.
Lawyer Rodel Rodis said the sale finalized in March should be voided as it was in violation of Philippine law.
"This is unparalleled. This is the most incredible crony agreement in the entire history…Not just in the history of the Philippines. I would say in the history of the world there is nothing that comes close to this.” Rodis said Monday at a webinar organized by the National Youth Movement for the West Philippines.
“This should shock our consciences, shock our nation. How can we allow this to happen? Why is the Philippine government allowing this theft of our resources, theft of our future to take place? That's why we felt the urgent need to file this suit right away and bring this to the Philippine nation.”
Rodis, a dual Filipino citizen in the United States, filed the complaint at the Ombudsman with fellow Fil-Am Loida Nicolas Lewis and Balgamel de Belen Domingo.
He said the Malampaya contract will cost P138-billion, 17 times larger than the Pharmally deal for face shields which is being investigated in Congress.
The deal gave the Davao-based Udenna ownership of 45% of the Malampaya project, which it followed up by buying Shell’s 45% stake, resulting in a 90% interest in the project.
Malampaya supplies 40 percent of the energy needs of Luzon and is expected to provide energy for up to 7 more years.
Rodis asserted Uy benefited from his closeness to President Rodrigo Duterte in getting the deal.
“The question really is: If he was not a close friend and crony of President Duterte, would he have received the benefits of this incredibly one-sided contract he entered into with the support of the Philippine government? If he was Juan Dela Cruz there would have be no question, but it’s precisely because of his closeness to President Duterte that he received his benefit,” he said.
He said public officials involved in the deal should resign and face charges.
Cusi has defended the deal as legal and described the raps filed against him as harassment.
Udenna has also said its acquisition of the Malampaya stake was legitimate.
Rodis, however, questioned the sale of the stake to a Udenna subsidiary which had not been registered formally or invested money for it during the time of the contract in April 2019.
He said they found the company UC Malampaya had no papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) when it entered the sale.
The complaint also laid out their concerns about the experience and competence of the people taking over the Malampaya project, since it would affect the safety of natural resources where the facilities and pipelines are laid.
Rodis added the Ombudsman, led by Duterte appointee Samuel Martires, should realize repercussions will follow any attempt to sweep away the case from the public spotlight.
MUST ELECTION ISSUE
The lawyer said their filing of the complaint was only coincidental to the upcoming Philippine general elections, but believes the Malampaya sale should be an issue for the candidates running for national posts.
“Because of the critical nature of what we’re discussing, this could not wait until next year or the year after. We had to file it now,” Rodis said.
“Whether it’s close to the PH elections was not of import immediately. Although it is and should an issue everyone in the Philippines and around the world should be talking about, so this was a critical time,” he said.
Rodis said his group was not intimidated by what he saw as threats from Cusi that they could be charged or arrested if they go to the Philippines.
Former foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario, who was also present at the webinar, stressed the importance of conserving and managing the natural resource in the West Philippine Sea.
“When we have a new president in 2022, then we can execute all that we need to do,” Del Rosario said.
Rodis said the 2022 elections are a deciding point for the issue, encouraging citizens to “demand” answers from those vying for public office on what they will do about the deal and place their votes accordingly.
“If they vote for the people who allowed this travesty to happen then maybe we deserve what fate we’re going to be facing in the next few years. But if we do something to stop it, then we can be able to make sure that the money goes to the Filipino people, it funds projects regarding the pandemic, it allows for the Filipino family to thrive,” he said.
“We are in that unique position where we can do something about it and the Filipino people should.”